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A Tattoo, to Remember the Holocaust
“Proudly Bearing Elders’ Scars, Their Skin Says ‘Never Forget’ ” (front page, Oct. 1) is a vivid reminder that the eyewitnesses to the Holocaust will someday be gone. Although I am puzzled by the tattoo trend in general, I empathize with the children and grandchildren who decided to put numbers on their arms. The rolled-up sleeves with the numbers on the arms of the children in the concentration camps at liberation is a searing image.
The reminder to the world that the Holocaust isn’t ancient history can take many forms. We are surrounded by images and words on the Internet. The actual display permanently embedded on the skin is unequivocal. Perhaps that’s more than words can say.
The writer was a member of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust and the original United States Holocaust Memorial Council.
To the Editor:
The biggest problem with using tattoos as remembrance is that the vast majority of Holocaust victims were never tattooed; they were simply murdered outright. Even among survivors, a minority bear tattoos: those who endured certain camps, especially Auschwitz. Survivors of lesser known places of horror — and the great number of people who survived in hiding or were able to pass as non-Jews — have no tattoos.
I have always imagined a different scheme: taking the name of one of the murdered and legally incorporating it into one’s own name. The entire name — all four or five words of it — would be required on passports, driver’s licenses and every other official or semiofficial document.
That would help jam the gears of oblivion. And it would be preserving what was given, in love, by a people destroyed rather than in hate by their destroyers.
The writer, the author of “On Listening to Holocaust Survivors: Beyond Testimony,” has been teaching and writing about the Holocaust and its survivors for nearly 40 years.
To the Editor:
As a fairly conventional woman in my mid-50s, I’d never considered getting a tattoo. After all, so often they end up blurred and ugly as one ages; they are permanent, so youthful enthusiasm may become mature remorse; and it’s what the Nazis did to Jews at Auschwitz.
But this summer, I went on a Classrooms Without Borders trip to Poland and visited three concentration camps and the site of the Warsaw Ghetto, and saw that anti-Semitism is alive in Poland. I am thinking about getting a tattoo now; it will end up blurred and ugly, it will be permanent, and it will be a reminder of what the Nazis did to Jews.
And it will remind us all that racism, anti-Semitism and hatred of all kinds are still alive and accepted.
To the Editor:
When I was a boy in the 1960s, there was an expression “long sleeves in the summer.” It referred to Holocaust survivors who were so ashamed of their death camp tattoos that no matter how hot the weather became, they would not wear shirts that exposed their forearms.
It is inspiring to see how the grandchildren of those Holocaust survivors have turned a mark of shame and suffering into one of pride and remembrance.