Three years ago, Dana Doron, then a doctor interning in Northern Israel, came across an elderly patient in the emergency room complaining of chest pains. As she was trained to do, Doron asked the woman to describe her symptoms. But instead of telling her what was wrong, the woman simply pointed to her forearm and asked her: “Do you know what this is?”
Doron instantly knew what it was: a tattooed number from the Auschwitz concentration camp. For over an hour, the patient spoke to Doron about her life, recounting her story to the doctor.
This patient’s story resonated with Doron, causing her to wonder what it felt like to go through life with a permanent, constant reminder of a horrific past. As the last people tattooed with these numbers begin to vanish from our world, Doron felt a strong responbility to communicate their stories and ensure that their legacies are carried on. For this, Doron approached her friend Uriel Sinai, an Israeli photojournalist, to work on a documentary project with her photographing the numbered survivors of Auschwitz.
The resulting portraits they made were striking and powerful – but it wasn’t until Sinai purchased a camera with video capabilities that the project evolved into something larger: Numbered, a moving film that tells stories from Auschwitz survivors and their family members. (the trailer for the film is available below and here)
In today’s world, the incredible stories of these last Holocaust survivors are often lost on younger generations. Sinai recounts a key moment for him during the creation of the film: “There was an 84-year-old man who went to a coffee shop in Turkey. The cashier noticed his number on his arm and asked if that was his phone number. He went on to say, ‘No, it’s from Auschwitz.’ Her response was, ‘Is that a night club?’” Says Sinai, “One thing I took from this project is that these people are truly vanishing.”
Numbered, by Dana Doron and Uriel Sinai, will be showcased Sunday January 20 at the 2013 New York Jewish Film Festival. For more information about the film and upcoming screenings visit their Facebook page or the Jewish Film Festival’s site here.