The Auschwitz Tattoo in Visual Memory

I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors

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Bernice Eisenstein: I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors, Riverhead Books, 2006

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Bernice Eisensteins’ I was a child of Holocast survivors is a memoir of Eisnstein’s on her memories as a child of two Holocaust survivors who met in Auschwitz. This illustration is presented in the memoir next to a text on her brother and mother’s visit to Auschwitz, which made her mother ill. The illustration is explained by Eisenstein as an illustration of a photograph of her mother and her sister, sitting together. Regarding this illustration, Eisenstien wrote: “when I found this photo recently, I couldn’t believe it. My mother, grandmother, and aunt posed as I had wanted to draw them - sitting close together, wearing watches, their numbers in a row. After I finished, I briefly saw something I’d never in them or never recognized - a kind of innocence, a lightness, as if their arms don’t even carry the mark of the past” (113).

This illustration bears indirect relation to the original footage, as the three women sit next to each other and show their tattoos. It bears an allusive allusion relation to the original footage, as the mother, aunt and grandmother are portrayed after the Holocaust, in civilian clothes. The tattoos generically illustrate the three as Auschwitz survivors, therefore also functioning as an evidence of their past. Another dominant visual aspect in this image is the combination between the hand watches and the number tattoos. These symbolize the mortality of the women on the one hand, and the fixity of the tattoos on the other hand, inscribed on their bodies for the rest of their lives.

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