Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Making Memory Permanent

Jodi Rodoren’s recent article: Proudly Bearing Elders’ Scars, Their Skin Says  ‘Never Forget’ speaks volumes to the bond between Holocaust survivors and their grandchildren and the intense level of commitment these descendents have towards their grandparents. (Read article here

The article warmed my heart and brought me back to my academic days. (I wrote about how relationships between Holocaust survivors and their grandchildren differ from “normal” relationships between grandparents and grandchildren). Where was this tattoo fad in 2006 when I needed proof of varying levels of intensities in relationships.

To do something (that goes against the grain in Jewish tradition) like getting a tattoo as a method of action to “never forget” is fascinating, especially if it’s a grandchild. I’ve heard this before as my cousin in New Jersey has been talking about getting his and to be honest, I’ve considered it even though my grandparents were not survivors. Nothing speaks permanence more than black tattoo ink.

The Holocaust is something that I have chosen to remember not only because I want to remember the horrific experiences victims of Nazi persecution went through (I wish I didn’t have to) but because I want to make sure it doesn’t happen again; and the one thing that can help prevent it, is talk about it; so, why not get a conversation piece tattooed on your forearm and have a chat? Bring the atrocities of our past to the forefront not only to swamp survival tales, but to be advocates of never again? 

But what does getting a tattoo really do? 

Is it comforting (for both the survivor/ grandchild)? Does it hold promise? What purpose does it serve? Does it need a purpose? Will all Jewish grandchildren have the number of their grandparents tattooed on their forearm—can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em kind of thing?

I wonder if it gives survivors the assurance that their grandchildren will never forget them for as long as they live? From a posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) standpoint, how have survivors reacted to this article? Will they resurface old wounds or “scars”? Is it, as Jodi suggests, “offensive”? 

My response: With that number comes responsibility. With that number comes a story and if a young person, a grandchild wants to ink that number into his or her arm, I hope and pray he or she is prepared to tell the story that accompanies it and pass it on. Grandchildren deal with the impact the Holocaust has on their grandparents in varying ways and if this is one of them, then, bring it. Just back it and don’t get lazy.

For starters, I’m going to tattoo a couple stories into my brain.

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