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March 8, 2014

How Holocaust survivor Bernard Marks survived Auschwitz without a tattoo…

Filed under: Buchenwald, Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:46 am

Holocaust survivor Bernard Marks recently gave a talk, to 8th grade students at Holmes Junior High School in Davis, California. He revealed that he was a prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkenau, although he has no tattoo on his arm.

A number tattooed on the arm of a Holocaust survivor

Prisoners at Auschwitz had numbers tattooed on their arms

You can read an article, about the talk given by Bernard Marks, in the Davis Enterprise newspaper at

This quote is from the article in the Davis Enterprise:

When it was [Bernard’s] turn to be tattooed [at Auschwitz], Marks said, he told the German officer he had to use the restroom. He even got into an argument about it, going so far as to tell the officer if he didn’t let Marks go, he would find himself in a large puddle. He was given permission to go, as was his father, who was ordered to make sure he returned. But they never did, managing to avoid the tattooing day after day.

It was, Marks said, “just one of the games we played.”

So famous Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel is not the only survivor of Auschwitz who got by without a tattoo.  You can read about Elie and his lack of an Auschwitz tattoo at

Primo Levi wrote, on page 27 of his book Survival in Auschwitz, that every prisoner was required to have a tattoo in order to get their food in the chow line: “It seems that this is the real, true initiation: only by showing one’s number can one get bread and soup.” Levi was a prisoner in the Auschwitz III camp, aka Monowitz.  Without a tattoo, how did Bernard Marks get any food in the Auschwitz camp?

Elie Wiesel was sent to Buchenwald after he was marched out of Auschwitz.  Bernard Marks was sent to Dachau, where his mother and brother were killed, although Bernard and his father were spared.

I wonder why Bernard’s mother was sent to Dachau to be killed.  Why hadn’t she been gassed at Auschwitz?  Dachau was not a camp for women. There were no women there until the very end of the war.  I previously blogged about the women who were sent from Auschwitz to Dachau at

Elie Wiesel had no ID number at Buchenwald; I wonder if Bernard Marks got by without an ID number at Dachau.

This quote, regarding the tattooing of prisoners, is from a well-known True Believer website at

The registration of newly arrived prisoners took place after the issuing of clothing and consisted of filling out a personal form, including details of next of kin. These forms were kept in the camps Political Department.

Thus registered, the prisoner received a camp serial number, which would serve instead of their name, for the duration of their stay in the camp.

(photo of Auschwitz Tattoo. Number of Henry Oertelt B11291)

The registration process [at Auschwitz] also included the tattooing of the prisoners camp number on their left forearm, and photographs were taken of the prisoners from three angles. […]

Every prisoner registered in Auschwitz Concentration Camp received a camp number, which he had to wear on his striped uniform in a precisely defined place.

Bernard Marks was 13 years old when he arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau. How did he manage to get past Dr. Josef Mengele, the most famous of the 30 SS men who made the selections for the gas chamber?  Prisoners under the age of 15 or over the age of 45 were sent to the gas chamber immediately upon arrival at Auschwitz.

This quote from the Davis Enterprise explains why Bernard Marks was not sent to the gas chamber upon his arrival at Auschwitz:

In August 1944, Marks and his family were transported from Lodz to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Marks’ father had managed to hang on to his son’s work permit, which showed him being two years older than he really was, and it spared him on the selection ramp at Auschwitz — a ramp upon which the infamous Mengele, known as the “Angel of Death,” decided who would be killed and who would be spared to labor in the camp.

The rest of Marks’ family wasn’t so fortunate.

I will never forget that day,” he said.

He credited his father for saving his life time and again and getting him through the ordeal.

And he ended the presentation to Holmes students with a little levity. Asked by a student if he had a number tattooed on his arm like other Holocaust survivors, he told the story of how he and his father managed to avoid that particular indignity with a little ingenuity.

It should be a crime for Holocaust survivors to tell 8th graders stories about how they fooled Dr. Mengele and were able to get by without a tattoo at Auschwitz.  The lack of an Auschwitz tattoo is an indication that Bernard Marks was not really at Auschwitz.

Another clue is that prisoners from the Lodz ghetto were sent directly to Dachau, near the end of the war.

This quote is from the H.E.A.R.T  (True Believer) website:

They [the Jews in the Lodz ghetto] were tortured and subsequently shot or transported to Dachau and Mauthausen concentration camps.