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L’Dor V’Dor (From Generation to Generation)

By: Becky Seitel

“What’s that on your arm?”

It’s a question Ilse Nathan has been asked many times, especially by children. The numbers are somewhat faded now, not as bright and sharp as they once were, but Ilse’s desire to share her story with future generations has not faded.

The Auschwitz Concentration Camp Complex, including Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II (Birkenau), and Auschwitz III (Monowitz), was the only location in which prisoners were tattooed during the Holocaust. Despite the perception that all prisoners were given tattoos, prisoners of Auschwitz after 1941 were most likely to be branded this way.

Ilse’s mother, Helene, Ilse’s sister, Ruth, and Ilse entered Auschwitz together and became prisoners A2791, A2792, and A2793. Months later, during a routine selection process, Ilse and Ruth slipped from the line, thinking their mother was with them. Unfortunately, she was transported to another camp where she later died.

“We made a conscious decision after liberation,” Ilse says. “We could live in the past and be bitter, or we could pursue a life of happiness. We chose happiness. Otherwise, Hitler would have won.

Ilse is pictured with her mother, Helene, and Grant Siegel.