Remembering the past with a tattoo

3 grandchildren and daughter of Auschwitz survivor decide to replicate numbers on his arm.

April 13, 2010 03:09
2 minute read.
Yosef and Arik Diamant.

Auschwitz tattoo. (photo credit: Arik Diamant)


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After surviving the Auschwitz death camp and making his way to Israel after World War II, Yosef Diamant derives much pleasure from his grandchildren. The 83-year-old Beit Shemesh resident now has 21 in all.

But when three of those grandchildren, along with one of his daughters, decided to replicate the tattoo Diamant bears on his right arm – a row of numbers with which he was branded as a prisoner in Auschwitz – they were unsure of how he might react.

“We had talked about doing it for some time,” Arik Diamant, one of Yosef’s grandchildren, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. “My aunt and her kids had even thought about doing it without asking him, because they were afraid he’d be upset.”

Arik Diamant, however, went ahead and asked his grandfather.

“For my cousins and my aunt, it was about preserving the memory of what he went through. For me, it was more about my grandfather himself, who I grew up with,” he said.

“I told him what I wanted to do, that I wanted to get his tattoo tattooed on my arm, and he said he understood,” Arik Diamant said of his grandfather’s initial response.

“He asked me, when your kids and your grandkids ask you what that number is, will you tell them about me? And I told him, yes, of course I would, and he nodded, he got it,” he said.

So in 2008, Arik Diamant, followed by two of his cousins and his aunt, went to the tattoo parlor and had Yosef’s number –157621 – tattooed on their arms. Yosef Diamant himself approved.

“It made me happy, and I’ll tell you why,” Diamant said on Monday. “I felt it was the best way of preserving the memory of what happened to me and to so many other people.”

He explained, “Their kids will ask them, dad, mom, what is that – what are those numbers? And it will remain for future generations to see.”

Besides, he pointed out, “you know the kinds of tattoos kids are getting these days. I was happy that my grandkids wanted to get something that meant something.”

Diamant said he was worried that in the coming years, the Holocaust and the stories of its survivors would begin to be forgotten.

“And that’s why I think what my daughter and my grandkids did was a good thing,” he said. “If more people did what they did, it would be even better.”
Diamant, who lives with his wife Ida, concluded his Monday conversation with the Post by stressing how important his grandchildren were to him.

“It’s as if I have $21 million,” he said. “They’re worth much more. In the end, what’s money really worth?”

“We see it all the time,” he continued. “In the morning, you’re rich, and by the evening, it can all go – that’s certainly what happened in Germany. So for me, my family members are my riches, and yes, I feel like a millionaire.” 

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