The Auschwitz Tattoo in Visual Memory


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Adama, Helmar Lerski, Palestine 1947

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Adama (1947) is an early attempt to deal with the trauma of child survivors in pre-state Israeli cinema. Helmar Lerski’s film is a dramatization of the situation in a village for orphaned Jewish children before the establishment of the State of Israel that largely follows the Zionist historical narrative from catastrophe to reemption. This development is told as transition from a traumatized and destructive victim to a self-confident and productive member of a new society. The number tattoo serves as a reminder of the protagonist’s past, which is visualized only once in the film through a series of short flashbacks. Those flashbacks partly refer to historical footage and reenacted scenes. The visual trope of barbed wire serves as a trigger for the memories that befall the protagonist. When he realizes the destruction he had caused in his outrage, a close-up of the number tattooed in his arm can be seen that is related to the confusion of past, present and future in the traumatic experience. Hence, the number tattoo, and the indirect allusion to the historical footage through the use of the close-up shot, serves as a symbol for the mark left by the trauma on the survivor’s body.

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