The Tattooed Numbers Refute Holocaust Deniers’ Mischief

The Auschwitz concentration camp, located in southern Poland, was a complex of over 40 concentration and extermination camps, operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II and the Holocaust.

At the Auschwitz Death Camp, a tattooed number on a prisoner’s forearm – mostly a Jew – was his or her identity, replacing his or her first and last name. These numbers were Auschwitz prisoners’ identification system.

During the Holocaust, concentration camp prisoners received the tattooed number on their forearm only at the Auschwitz concentration camp complex. That complex consisted of Auschwitz I, the main camp, Auschwitz II, which was Auschwitz-Birkenau), and Auschwitz III, the Monowitz concentration and labor camp and the subcamps.

Denying the Holocaust

The claim that the Nazis did not perpetrate a genocide of six million Jews means denying the Holocaust. Nowadays, there are Holocaust deniers.

Holocaust deniers use false claims such as, ‘Nazi Germany’s Final Solution goal was to deport Jews but did not include their extermination’; ‘the Nazis who oversaw the extermination camps did not use lethal gas chambers for their mass murder of Jews’; ‘the actual number of Jews murdered during World War is significantly lower than the claim that six and perhaps more million Jews were exterminated, reducing this number to typically around a tenth of the six-million figure’.

During World War II, General Dwight D. Eisenhower became a five-star general in the Army and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe.

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The writer in front of Auschwitz I barrack 11, was called the death block – Photo credit Nurit Greenger

General Dwight Eisenhower made an effort to stop any possible attempts to deny that the Holocaust ever happened. With the allies’ victory over Nazi Germany, in April 12, 1945, General Eisenhower saw the first Nazi camp’s horror. It was near the town of Gotha, Germany.

The General was never able to describe his emotional reactions when he first came face to face with the indisputable evidence of Nazi brutality and ruthless disregard for Jews and their lack of every shred of human decency. Up to that time he had known about the atrocities mostly in general and through secondary sources.

Though some of the sights made him physically ill, he inspected every part of the camp. He felt that it was his duty to see it all and be able to testify to the truth of the Nazi unfathomable brutality. Eisenhower once said, “I am certain, however that I have never at any other time experienced an equal sense of shock.”

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View of Auschwitz camp – Photo Credit Nurit Greenger

As if he predicted that in time to come there would be Holocaust deniers, General Eisenhower told his officers: “Get it all on record now – get the films – get the witnesses -because somewhere down the road of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.”

How right he was!

Holocaust denial is considered to be a serious societal problem. A large number of Holocaust deniers dare to claim, either overtly or covertly, that the Holocaust is a hoax – or an exaggeration – arising from a deliberate Jewish conspiracy designed to advance the interest of Jews at the expense of other people. Therefore, for this reason, Holocaust denial is considered to be an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

In several European countries and Israel, Denying the Holocaust is an illegal act. Some Muslim governments, including Iran and Syria are known to deny the Holocaust. In General, Holocaust deniers use euphemism for their revisionism, often based on a predetermined conclusion that ignores overwhelming historical evidence to the contrary. In some of the former Eastern Europe Bloc countries, Holocaust deniers do not deny the mass murder of Jews, rather, they deny their own participation in helping to perpetrate the Holocaust.

No matter what, the Auschwitz Death Camp’s tattooed serial number on a prisoner’s forearm does not allow Holocaust denial.

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Mr. Joseph Hellen Auschwitz ID tattooed number – Photo credit Nurit Greenger

I once interviewed Mr. Joseph Hellen, Auschwitz number 64463. In my article I wrote:

“In June 1942 young Joseph was dragged out of school and was thrown into prison for several months. In August he was transported to Auschwitz. Joseph Hellen entered Auschwitz an innocent 16-year-old youth and in a matter of 24 hours he grew up to be a man. Within a few hours of arriving at Auschwitz, a number was tattooed on his forearm, done with a primitive needle that was used on many other prisoners until it had to be replaced. ‘It hurt but he did not cry,’ Joseph still remembers.”

“Why they did not tattoo the number on your forearm inner part as they did with other prisoners?” I asked?

Joseph replied, “Straight away when I arrived to Auschwitz they inquired about the identity of the arriving. In Czechoslovakia I was incarcerated as a political prisoner and political prisoners had their number tattooed on their forearm outer part. Jews had the number tattooed on their forearm inner part.”

“Hellen spent the next three years as a number, a young man with no name, witnessing the most extremely evil side of life.”

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On display in Auschwitz I-shoes and marked suitcase, collected from the arriving to the camp – photo credit Nurit Greenger

Tattooing in Auschwitz

In spring 1942, the Nazi SS (Schutzstaffel) began to systematically tattoo all Jewish prisoners who arrived in the Auschwitz complex. In early 1943, the practice of tattooing prisoners at the Auschwitz camp complex expanded. The Camp Commandant’s Office decided that all incoming prisoners would henceforth be tattooed on the lower left arm, including prisoners who had already been registered in the camp complex.

The Auschwitz camp authorities assigned a serial number to a total of more than 400,000 prisoners, not counting approximately 3,000 numbers assigned to police prisoners, who were not included in the daily prisoners’ count, but were interned at Auschwitz due to overcrowding in the jail system.

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Jewish women and children upon arrival in Auschwitz. Jewish women and children deported from Hungary, separated from the men, line up for selection. Auschwitz camp, Poland, May 1944. – Yad Vashem Photo Archives

Auschwitz, the Deadliest Concentration Camp liberation

On 27 January 1945, during the Vistula-Oder Offensive, the Auschwitz concentration death camp was liberated by the Russian Red Army. Although most of the prisoners had been forced onto the notorious death march, about 7,000 had been left behind in the camp.

The Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates that 1.3 million people were sent to Auschwitz death camp in occupied Poland. Of this total number, nearly 1.1 million were Jewish prisoners, among them women and children, 960,000 of which died in the camp. The other approximately 200,000 prisoners were predominantly made up of non-Jewish Poles, the mentally challenged, Roma people, homosexuals and Soviet prisoners of war.

Those who were liberated, regain their first and last name, healed and went on with their life, carried with them an indelible witness to the horrors of the Holocaust: a tattooed number on their forearm that speaks volumes of the systematic murder of Jews by the Nazis. The Holocaust deniers cannot wipe out these witness tattooed serial numbers.

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The writer is standing in Auschwitz-Birkenau-by the destroyed gas chamber which the Nazis destroyed to eliminate all evidence to their brutality – Photo credit Nurit Greenger

Nowadays there are few Holocaust survivors among us and even fewer who carry the Auschwitz tattooed ID number. And their number is diminishing fast.

As a non-Jewish American friend of mine wrote: “My best friend in this world, a Jew and a soulmate brother, a father of ten children, is the son of Auschwitz Concentration Camp surviving parents I wear a replica of his father’s Auschwitz number on my left forearm as an honorary tattoo. That is my answer to the Holocaust deniers and the Jew-haters who are the enemies of our Republic.”

Nurit Greenger
During the 2006 second Lebanon War, Nurit Greenger, referenced then as the "Accidental Reporter" felt compelled to become an activist. Being an 'out-of-the-box thinker, Nurit is a passionately committed advocate for Jews, Israel, the United States, and the Free World in general. From Southern California, Nurit serves as a "one-woman Hasbarah army" for Israel who believes that if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.

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