What To Do About a Tatoo

Warning: The tone of this particular post, unlike my previous posts is about to take a dreadfully serious tone.

I have been tasked with writing the family history.  The process has begun with my mother and I discussing her childhood and upbringing and what it was like growing up in a post-war communistic Eastern European country.

She is hell bent on doing this sooner rather than later because she is convinced that she is losing it – or will be.

In my most humble opinion she is sharper than she lets on and nothing – NOTHING – gets by that woman.

So the earliest possible point at which I can begin this saga is with my grandparents.    I would have liked to go back farther but my ancestors were decimated in Auschwitz.

As my grandmother stood before Dr. Mengele with her three year old child  in tow, she was told to go to the right.  “But I have my son,” she told the monster.

“He’ll be better off with her,” nodding towards my great-grandmother.

That was the last time my grandmother saw her oldest son and mother.

Of course she had a number on the inside of her forearm.  I only noticed it years later after learning about the dark period in history we call the Holocaust.

And then I forced myself to look.  It was chilling.  Proof that she was actually truly there.  In some ways I think she never left. She was never liberated.

Well, my mother proceeds to tell me about a play she attended where a grandchild, in tribute to his recently departed grandfather has his concentration camp number tattooed on his arm.

“Your brother wanted to do that with your grandmother’s number  a while ago.  But I was totally against it.”  She felt bad and I could hear in her voice how painfully she regretted her decision at the time.  Knowing she was filled with regret over this (and many other things) I attempted to mitigate her feelings by arguing that the tattoo would only have honored the very murderers who put it there.

“Besides, it’s not what defined her life.”  I tried to reason

“You know, it was very brave of your brother to want to do that.  I am sorry I was so against it at the time.”

You can read more about this debate  in the article the New York Times published last year.::http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/01/world/middleeast/with-tattoos-young-israelis-bear-holocaust-scars-of-relatives.html?_r=0  .  My brother graciously sent me the link before he gave me permission to discuss his aforementioned conversation with my mother.

So what do you all think?  I’d like to know.

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6 thoughts on “What To Do About a Tatoo

  1. Wow. That’s interesting. Me personally, I am very close to my grand and great grand parents, and I think that if it was part of their history and they were proud to have come through it, I could see myself doing it. I would be proud of them, their struggle, their sacrifice and how they overcame. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it, I don’t think it represents the killers, but in this case, it represents survival. No different, in my opinion, of a child of a cancer survivor getting a pink ribbon to honor a parent and their struggle and survival. Like all tattoos, it should be personal and it should mean some thing to the person.

    • I get it. I really do. But unlike the pink ribbon which was created by people who want to save lives, the numbers were given by savage murderers. It’s a big raging ugly debate.

      • To me, they both are about survival. About overcoming a battle that so many didn’t make it through. I get the debate, and apparently I have picked my side! LOL . I wasn’t aware of any of this before you blogged about it – I found it really interesting!

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