The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Etched in Flesh and Soul: The Auschwitz Number in Art

A generation of Auschwitz prisoners, Jews, and non-Jews scarred for life. Indelibly etched with a serial number into their flesh and souls, constantly reminding them of the horrors of the Holocaust, and became a symbol of the Holocaust.

There are a few artistic depictions of the Auschwitz number actual tattooing compared to the many written memoirs and testimonies in which Auschwitz survivors referred to the execution of the number tattooing, an extremely physically and emotionally difficult experience. Survivors artists described it as a constant reminder of the humiliation and loss of identity which was part of their experience during the Holocaust. Furthermore, to relate to the Holocaust, its aspects, and lessons, symbolically. For second-generation children of Holocaust survivors, the number on their parents` forearm was a fact of life into which they were born. The number seared into their minds and souls, and it appears in their artworks, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly. They presented it not to forget their parents` fate during the Holocaust expressing its actual presence affecting their personality, identity, and life. Third-generation artists want to revive, preserve and remember their grandparents` experience in Auschwitz through their visual expressions. Other artists used the Auschwitz number to convey political messages and to fight against Holocaust denial. In my lecture, I wish to show the uniqueness of the artistic appearance of the number from Auschwitz and its different use it.