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Why Some Descendants Of Holocaust Survivors Choose To Replicate A Loved One’s Auschwitz Tattoo – Podcast

The Oasis Reporters

February 12, 2024








Orly Weintraub Gilad bears her grandfather’s Auschwitz number on her right arm.
John Jeffay for The Conversation UK

Dale Berning Sawa, The Conversation and Gemma Ware, The Conversation

Nearly eight decades on from the liberation of Auschwitz on January 27 1945, the number of concentration camp prisoners forcibly tattooed, remains, for many, the symbol of the Holocaust. The Nazis murdered six million Jews, one million of whom died at Auschwitz.


Today, there are ever fewer survivors still alive to bear witness to this genocide. Now, some descendants of Holocaust survivors are replicating the Auschwitz tattoo of their parent or grandparent on their own bodies.


In this episode of The Conversation Weekly podcast, we find out what motivates them to replicate their relative’s Auschwitz number and hear about the reactions they’ve had.




Alice Bloch is a sociologist at the University of Manchester. Her research into forced migration and how intergenerational trauma shapes families led her watch the 2012 documentary, Numbered, in which Auschwitz survivors spoke about living with this tattoo. Among them were some descendants of survivors who had chosen to replicate their parent or grandparent’s number on their own bodies. Bloch was intrigued by this potent gesture.


In an ongoing research project, Bloch has been seeking out people who have chosen to have a family member’s Auschwitz number tattooed on themselves.


As a sociologist I was really interested in the sort of intersections between the body and memory and how that bore out. How do you memorialise through the body, specifically, what you might term a sort of traumatic tattoo, something that was imposed and forced on an ancestor?


The people she has interviewed have gone about copying the tattooed number in vastly different ways and for different reasons. But, as two of her interviewees, David Rubin and Orly Weintraub Gilad, tell The Conversation Weekly, all find meanings in this act that are as personal as they are universal – and urgent.


These numbers, as Bloch puts it, are a way of communicating family stories and expressing love “when it was impossible to do that through words”. They also speak to the imperative to find new ways to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive as it passes out of living memory.


To find out more about Bloch’s research and hear Rubin and Weintraub Gilad’s stories, listen to the full episode of The Conversation Weekly podcast. You can also read a long read story from The Conversation’s Insights series by Bloch about her research.


A transcript of this episode is now available.


Disclosure: Alice Bloch has received funding from British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Small Research grant in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to support this research.


This episode of The Conversation Weekly was written by Dale Berning Sawa and produced by Mend Mariwany, with assistance from Gemma Ware and Katie Flood. Sound design was by Eloise Stevens, and our theme music is by Neeta Sarl.


You can find us on X, formerly known as Twitter @TC_Audio, on Instagram at theconversationdotcom or via email. You can also subscribe to The Conversation’s free daily email here.


Listen to The Conversation Weekly via any of the apps listed above, download it directly via our RSS feed or find out how else to listen here.The Conversation


Dale Berning Sawa, Commissioning Editor, Cities + Society, The Conversation and Gemma Ware, Editor and Co-Host, The Conversation Weekly Podcast, The Conversation


This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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