The Auschwitz Tattoo in Visual Memory

The Terminator

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The Terminator, James Cameron, USA 1984

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The evocation of Holocaust references in this indirect use of the historical footage from Auschwitz in The Terminator (1984) demonstrates the iconic character of the shot that can migrate into different, decontextualized contexts, such as a dystopic science fiction movie. However, the reference to the historical footage from Auschwitz is not random. It evokes the specific context of its use in relation to the medical “experiments” in the camps. This and other references, such as the round-up and the forced labor mentioned in the dialogue, serve as connectors between the main plot in The Terminator (machines that suppress, control and exploit humans in the future) and the specific historical setting. Though the scene in The Terminator alludes to the historical sequence by the combination of the number tattoo (in this case a scannable barcode lasered into the arm) and a close-up shot, it still transforms the specific trope into a new context. Thereby, visual Holocaust memory is mobilised as a master-paradigm for the sake of  intensified storytelling.

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