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In honour of Zaide:  The young Jews getting Holocaust number tattoos

TJI Pick
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Published: 16 June 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

Canadian researchers are investigating the contemporary phenomenon of Holocaust memorial tattoos.

Tattoos have become more mainstream, but Pierce Goldman admits the memorial Holocaust tattoo he chose to have inked on his left arm has received some scowls from older Jewish people who don't understand why he did it.

"It's shocking for them to see a younger man with a number on his arm ... it's not one of those: 'Oh my God, that's an awesome piece of art.' It's meant to be a buzzkill."

The number he refers to — 140856 — was forcibly tattooed onto his grandfather's forearm when he entered Auschwitz concentration camp during  World War II.

Goldman, who lives in Ontario, said a lot of people ask what it means, which leads to a conversation about his family history.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo, Canada  want to speak to  other descendants of survivors from Nazi concentration camps who have chosen to get a Holocaust tattoo in honour of their ancestors.

According to Reisa Klein, a co-researcher with the university's (Re)Marked project, Holocaust memorial tattoos are a contemporary phenomenon she believes started within the past 10 years.

"In the ghettos, Jews were forced to wear the yellow Star of David as a way of demonstrating that they were Jewish and really sequestering them from the youth, the public, and really outing them as Jews as a way of creating a sense of otherness," Klein said.

"Young people today are reappropriating these images that were utilised to dehumanise Jews as a kind of taking it back and as a celebration of Jewish identity."


In honour of Zaide: A Jewish man explains his Holocaust memorial tattoo as part of Ontario study (CBC)

Photo:  Pierce Goldman has had the concentration camp number of his grandfather tattooed on his arm

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