The Auschwitz Tattoo in Visual Memory

Second Generation_ The Things I Didn’t Tell My Father

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Michel Kichka: Second Generation - The Things I Didn’t Tell My Father, Europe Comics, 2016

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Michel Kichka’s graphic novel Second Generation: The Things I Didn’t Tell My Father portrays the author’s relationship with his father, Auschwitz survivor Henri Kichka, from childhood to adult life. In one of the first illustrations of the novel, Michel is depicted as a child caressing his father’s arm, while Henri is only depicted neck-down to torso, with his number visible. Michel is wondering “who wrote a number under these hairs?”, while at the top of the image, he states “on his family my father hardly spoke”.

The image bears indirect relations to the original footage, as it is a mimetic allusion of it, depicting a torso of a Holocaust survivor, decades after liberation, mostly focusing on his number tattoo. It is generically indicating that Michel’s father is a Holocaust survivor, while at the same time used as evidence for Henri’s past stay as a prisoner in Auschwitz. The number tattoo is also presented as a symbol for concealing the past Henri almost never talked about; and so, on the one hand, the number tattoo makes the past visually present, and on the other, it remains an unexplained symbol.

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