Proudly Bearing Elders’ Scars, Their Skin Says ‘Never Forget’
JERUSALEM — When Eli Sagir showed her grandfather, Yosef Diamant, the new tattoo on her left forearm, he bent his head to kiss it.
Mr. Diamant had the same tattoo, the number 157622, permanently inked on his own arm by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Nearly 70 years later, Ms. Sagir got hers at a hip tattoo parlor downtown after a high school trip to Poland. The next week, her mother and brother also had the six digits inscribed onto their forearms. This month, her uncle followed suit.
“All my generation knows nothing about the Holocaust,” said Ms. Sagir, 21, who has had the tattoo for four years. “You talk with people and they think it’s like the Exodus from Egypt, ancient history. I decided to do it to remind my generation: I want to tell them my grandfather’s story and the Holocaust story.”
Mr. Diamant’s descendants are among a handful of children and grandchildren of Auschwitz survivors here who have taken the step of memorializing the darkest days of history on their own bodies. With the number of survivors here dropping to about 200,000 from 400,000 a decade ago, institutions and individuals are grappling with how best to remember the Holocaust — so integral toIsrael’s founding and identity — after those who lived it are gone.
Rite-of-passage trips to the death camps, like the one Ms. Sagir took, are now standard for high school students. The Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and other museums are trying to make exhibits more accessible, using individual stories and special effects. Arguments rage about whether that approach trivializes symbols long held as sacred and whether the primary message should be about the importance of a self-reliant Jewish state in preventing a future genocide or a more universal one about racism and tolerance.