The Auschwitz Tattoo in Visual Memory

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale

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Art Spiegelman: Maus - A Survivor’s Tale, Pantheon, 1996

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Art Spiegelman’s canonical graphic novel Maus depicts Art’s relationship with his Holocaust surviving father, Vladek, as he shares with Art his memories from the war, the Holocaust, and the life after. Vladek’s number tattoo is illustrated several times in Maus, while in this illustration Vladek describes to Art the process of becoming a prisoner in Auschwitz, and as a part of it, also getting tattooed.  

This illustration bears indirect relations with the historical footage, and in particular the shots of children showing their tattoos. The number tattoo is presented as an indicator and an evidence of Vladek’s past in Auschwitz. In particular, by Vladek’s gesture of showing the tattoo and physically pointing to it, this illustration is related to the original footage by the gestural analogy it shares with it, sharing a similar gesture as the children, showing their tattoos.

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