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I have below, two current articles regarding Holocaust tattoos, but first a brief history and background on the tattooing that took place during that time.
Auschwitz was the only death camp that tattooed the Jews and non-Germans that entered the camp.
The act of tattooing the Jews was not only dehumanizing, it was a grievous insult as the Torah prohibits the act: "You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead, or incise any marks on yourselves: I am the Lord" (Leviticus 19:28).
The issuing of numbers to prisoners began in 1941 when 12,000 Soviet prisoners of war arrived at Auschwitz. These men retained their army uniforms which were painted with a stripe and the letters SU (Soviet Union) for identification. In the beginning the numbers were written on the prisoners' chest with indelible ink, but it wore off rather quickly. Soon the practice began of tattooing the number onto the prisoner's upper left forearm using pen and ink. A Jewish prisoner's number would be preceded by a triangle, most likely to identify them as Jews. (Further information can be found at the link at the end of the diary.)
During my research I stumbled across a fascinating article (to which I link at the end of this diary) outlining how the Nazis utilized an IBM numbering systems at all their camps including Auschwitz.
[...] the Labor Assignment Office and assigned a characteristic five-digit IBM Hollerith number, 44673. The five-digit Hollerith number was part of a custom punch card system devised by IBM to track prisoners in Nazi concentration camps, including the slave labor at Auschwitz.
Some descendants of Auschwitz survivors have found a way to eternally bond themselves to their survivor relative, something that would be a permanent reminder to "Never forget" the horror of the Holocaust -- they are having their loved one's concentration camp identification number tattooed on their own body, most often in the same location as their family member.
When Eli Sagir showed her grandfather, Yosef Diamant, the new tattoo on her left forearm, he bent his head to kiss it.
Shortly after, her mother, brother and uncle have had those same six digits tattooed on their arms as well.
“All my generation knows nothing about the Holocaust,” said Ms. Sagir, 21, who has had the tattoo for five years. “You talk with people and they think it’s like the Exodus from Egypt, ancient history. I decided to do it to remind my generation: I want to tell them my grandfather’s story and the Holocaust story.”Fifteen years ago, Ron Folman who had been a fighter pilot in the Israeli army and is a long time human rights activist, did the unthinkable. He walked with his father, Yeshayahu, an Auschwitz survivor, into a Tel Aviv tattoo parlor and requested an exact duplicate of the faded green numbers on his father's arm "B-1367".
“I was one hundred percent sure I was doing the right thing,” Ron said. “It was emotional, pure in my heart.”Dana Doron, a 31 year old doctor and daughter of an Auschwitz survivor grew interested in the numbering while drawing blood from a tattooed arm in the emergency room. She felt that the fact that young people are choosing to get the tattoos is a sign that we are still carrying the scar of the Holocaust. She was inspired to interview about 50 survivors and along with Uriel Sinai, a photojournalist, directed the documentary "Numbered".
"Numbered", which premiered at the Chicago Film festival in October 2012, follows Hanna Rabinowitz, a middle-aged woman who puts her father’s number on her ankle after his death as well as the story of Ayal Gelles, a 28-year-old computer programmer, and his grandfather, Avraham Nachshon, 86, both of whom bear the number A-15510 on their arms.
Here is a trailer for the film "Numbered":
Choosing to share a loved one's number tattoo has sometimes provoked ugly interactions with those who view it in a very negative way. The fact that tattoos are prohibited by Jewish law and knowing some survivors were afraid, incorrectly, that having the numbers would bar them from burial in Jewish cemeteries, makes it that much more unsettling to some.
These two Polish Jews survived the horrors of the death camp, moved to Israel, married and became grandfathers. In 2009 they stumbled across one another on the Internet, then met in person that same year in Israel at the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day.
"We are blood brothers," said Sieradzki, 81. "The moment I meet someone who was there with me, who went through what I went though, who saw what I saw, who felt what I felt — at that moment we are brothers."Incredibly, two brothers, Shaul and Yaakov Zawadski, heard the story and realized they had been behind the two men and bore numbers B-14596 and B-14597. They to survived Auschwitz and made it to Israel.
A few months later, Yaakov Zawadski with number B-14597 was able to meet Sholowicz and Sieradzki at Israel's Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem and are in the photo above. The three warmly embraced and caught up on those painful memories.
Sieradzki says it is astounding that both survived the Holocaust and lived this long. He said he would never forget arriving at Auschwitz and seeing Mengele, who with a simple and careless flick of the wrist would decide the fates of so many. He says he never even took notice of those in line with him at the time.
"At that moment, everyone was busy with their own thoughts," he said. "I don't remember who was in front of me and who was behind me."Yaakov Zawdski, who was 82 in 2009, said his brother could not make the meeting because he had to care for his ailing wife and because he felt he could not bear the emotional burden the old memories would bring up. Zawadzki was still reeling at the improbability of the four men with consecutive number connecting this many years later.
"It's unfathomable that something like this could happen. I'm still in shock," a shaking Yaakov Zawadzki, 82, said at Sunday's reunion.