Producer, Hilla Medalia, shared at a Research Forum about her film Numbered. The film is about survivors in Israel that still bear their numbers from Auschwitz. It’s focused on the effect of their numbers on a personal level and their relationship with their numbers. Some say they cannot remember their number, even though it’s tattooed on them, maybe they’re suppressing traumatic memories. Most agreed that they want to hide their number, as if their tattoo invited questions from strangers. One survivor said a cashier asked her about Auschwitz at the register in a grocery store. Another survivor said his number reminded him that he lived, so he never tried to hide it. When he got his tattoo he cried tears of joy, because it meant he would survive, those who went straight to the gas chambers were never numbered. Other said they cried because it took their humanity, their identity from them; it reduced them to just a number. In any event, all of those interviewed had their own story of how they felt about their tattoo.
About 400,000 prisoners at Auschwitz were tattooed with numbers; only a few thousand are still alive. The film reminds us that the Holocaust factors daily into the lives of the survivors and their families. Whether it’s the survivor that’s hiding her number at the cash register, or the survivor answering questions from his grandchildren, their numbers are active players in a daily reminder of the Holocaust.
Medalia shared that on the day they filmed all of the survivors together, they started talking to each other to see if they met each other in the camp, or if they had mutual acquaintances. They compared their numbers and when they arrived at Auschwitz. They all wanted to relate to one another. Medalia doesn’t normally work with Holocaust films, the process of working on this film was significant and moving.
Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program? You can find the application and more information here.