The story of grandchildren of Holocaust survivors getting tattooed was one of those that I approached rather cautiously at first. Whether you approve of tattoos or not (and for the record, I don’t) the survivor tattoos are different. They aren’t so much “body art” as they are a mark of… not honor, not even of something special. They are a mark of survival in the face of pure evil. An evil that my generation has never faced.
That’s really the crux of the matter. The reason some young people are getting these tattoos is because they know nothing of the Holocaust. As one said, “It’s like the Exodus to us.” Something that happened, but of which they were not really a part.
I speak almost everyday of the loss of history in our own nation, the disconnect that we have from the very reasons why there is an America in the first place. And I often adopt mannerisms, styles and even words of the Founders to remind me of those foundational purposes. In that I find an opportunity to remind myself and anyone who asks me about them why they are important.
In many ways, these tattoos are the same reminders. In a world in which so many of we Jews say “Never Again,” are not such symbols a connection to that spirit and that determination?
I can accept that. And in a faith tradition that does so many things “as a reminder to all generations,” the grandchildren an great-grandchildren of survivors taking upon themselves the mark meant to degrade and dehumanize which became a symbol of overcoming the worst of human nature, is okay by me.
And if Hashem wanted us to forget about it, he would have wiped Jews off the face of the Earth. He didn’t. He helped us to overcome the evil.
Now we have to remember.