The Auschwitz Tattoo in Visual Memory

X-Men: Magneto Testament

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Greg Pak & Carmine Di Giandomenico: X-Men: Magneto Testament, Marvel, 2014

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X-Men: Magneto Testament (2014) is a a special issue of the comic book series X-Men that focuses solely on the background of Magneto and his experiences of persecution in the Holocaust. Other than in the films, which particularly emphasize the number tattoo as a symbol for the mark (or trauma) of the survivor and the suffering from “medical” experiments, the motif only appears once in the graphic novel about Magneto. It is part of a series of cadres that illustrate the registration process of incoming prisoners. As such, the indirect use of the historical footage from Auschwitz recontextualizes the setting and transfers it from the moment of liberation to the Holocaust. Interestingly, the depiction in Magneto Testament combines the close-up shot and the medium shot from the original footage within one cadre, though the shots are of course altered: the cadre shows the process of tattooing and - though referring to the fate of young Magneto who is also present in the other cadres on this particular page - does not contain children but adult prisoners. Thereby, the allusion to the number tattoo is used in a generally illustrating way as a symbol of the dehumanization process forced on the prisoners in Auschwitz. The number tattoo is integrated into a series of  shots that refer to similarly iconic scenes: the shaving, showers and the barracks. While many other depictions indirectly refer to liberation footages - such as the Auschwitz sign or the bunk beds - the visual depiction of the number tattoo evokes it as a symbol rather than as concrete reference to the historical footage.

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