The Auschwitz Tattoo in Visual Memory

Numbered

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Numbered, Dana Doron & Uriel Sinai, Israel 2012

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The documentary film Numbered (2012) represents a specific form of an indicative usage in context of an indirect use. The generic footage of the children in Auschwitz presenting the tattooed numbers to the camera is not shown in the film. Nevertheless, the sole topic of the documentary is the numbers that were inscribed into the flesh of the incoming prisoners in Auschwitz. Focusing on the last remaining survivors of Auschwitz, the film visualizes the number tattoo in various ways, including photographs that show the survivors presenting their numbers and film sequences. Photographing in black-and-white intensifies the sometimes reenacting, sometimes allusive forms the original footage is referenced indirectly.

This particular sequence begins with a close-up panning shot along the arm of survivor Leo Luster with his number B11647 tattooed on it. The shot size evokes the historical footage from Auschwitz. The intersection of the number with the introduction of the protagonist with his name evokes the topic of dehumanization and the replacing of names with numbers that is closely related to subsequent usage of the original shots. Also Luster’s gesture, presenting the arm to the camera alludes to the historical footage, while the setting is an alternation, because he and other survivors are now presented as individuals, not as part of a group. Also the following black-and-white photographs are variations of the close-up shot and the iconic gesture of presenting a “mark”, while they “crop” the original footage and emphasize the individuality of the survivors portrayed in the film.

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