Body language: "Numbered" looks at the legacy of concentration camp tattoos

From Numbered, photo Uriel Sinai

During World War II, approximately 400,000 Holocaust victims and survivors received tattooed serial numbers at the complex of Auschwitz concentration camps in German-occupied Poland. Numbered (2012), an award-winning documentary from directors Uriel Sinai and Dana Doron, explores the legacy of Nazi Germany’s use of tattoos in its efforts to dehumanize concentration camp inmates. For some of them, the numbers are the indelible symbols of one of the most tragic events of the 20th century, while others see them as symbols of perseverance or as a way of commemorating loved ones who had died. Still others see them as marks of shame. One survivor remarks on how she twisted her arm slightly when receiving the tattoo so it would be less visible. Although the tattoos have faded with time, some report how the numbers are seared on their memory.

Numbered is an emotionally charged narrative of lingering trauma, detailing how a dark chapter in history can shape one’s sense of self. Guided by the testimonies of the survivors and the stories told by their children, it’s a varied look at the personal and collective meanings the tattoos took on in the decades following the war. Each segment in the film is a portrait of a survivor identified by their first names and by their numbers.

The film screens in conjunction with Jewish Federation New Mexico’s statewide commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day (Wednesday, April 7) and is co-presented by the Center for Contemporary Arts (1050 Old Pecos Trail, 505-982-1338, and the Santa Fe Jewish Film Festival (

The 55-minute documentary screens daily from 4 to 8 p.m. through Wednesday, April 7. There’s no charge to watch, but tickets are required to unlock the video. Receive your ticket at,, Eventive (, or by calling the Santa Fe Jewish Film Festival at 505-216-0672. 

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