Posted on July 9, 2016 at 6:25 pm
BY CAROLYN YEAGER
copyright Carolyn Yeager 2016
Though they say a picture is worth a thousand words, these two need some explanation. One is from 1987, the other from 2006. Since the more recent one will arouse much more attention, I better start with that.
You will notice right away that there is a smudge on Wiesel’s left forearm, precisely where an Auschwitz tattoo would be. Many people will say, Oh, that’s his very, very faded and blurred tattoo. But it looks more like a bruise, and, by using your keyboard to enlarge the image while retaining a clear resolution, you’ll find, as I did, that it then looks even more like a bruise the larger you go. Plus there seems to be more bruise just above it where his right arm meets his left.
[To enlarge the image, first click on it to get the full size image, then hold down the Ctrl key while clicking the plus (+) key as many times as you can or want. To bring it back to normal, do the same with the minus (-) key. Both keys are on the upper right next to “backspace”]
This photograph has to be from the same photo session that includes the one where he’s sitting with the oversize Hebrew book — he’s wearing the same white knit golf shirt and his hair is the same. That one has been used by Wiesel defenders to suggest there is a faint tattoo on his arm. You can see it here and here.
However, this kind of thing is the typical Wiesel mode of operation throughout his life. He refuses to be explicit about his person and his personal life, even though he gets very explicit about things like the “shades of wateriness of the soup” and the face of the boy he wrote was hanged in Auschwitz. But his own body–which can be checked–he offers not a word of description. And looking at this blue-black discoloration, I can see nothing—even with using all my imagination—that I could imagine to be a 7713. I know you can’t either, but you might try to come up with some theory about it. I have my own theory, that Wiesel pinched himself real hard the day before the photographer came.
In 2006 he was 77 years old, an age when it’s extremely easy to bruise the skin. And that’s what it looks like. Recall the tattoos of so many other inmates from his same time there — none look like this.
But I have a second theory, which might be better — that Wiesel had applied his own tattoo number with ink but he didn’t go deep enough. It was only applied to the dermis (outer layer of skin), not the epidermis, and so it disappeared over time as new skin cells grew until now it is just a smudge of dispersed ink. Remember the top photo on this page that doesn’t look like a real tattoo — this may be when he did it.
Now, the other picture indicts him even more. He is in Lyon, France for the Klaus Barbie show trial and stops by the Holocaust Memorial there on June 2, 1987. He just won the Nobel Peace Prize 6 months earlier, and this Buchenwald liberation photo was associated with him winning that prize. You recall right after the ceremony he traveled to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and posed in front of a large blow-up of this very photograph.
Notice that Michael Grüner on the bottom row was cropped out of this version, along with the tall standing man, but there is Mel Mermelstein peeking out from the upper far right. Mel wrote a whole book about his incarceration before Wiesel said in 1983 that he was in this picture, but Mel never mentioned knowing the already famous Elie Wiesel there in his book! Mermelstein resided in the children’s barrack, too.
In this photograph, the unkempt Wiesel is sealing his doom by pointing directly to the unknown person (not him) he is claiming to be himself. And with such a guilty expression, too! Nothing could prove his dishonesty and forgery better than this.
I came upon this picture in the Time magazine Elie Wiesel photo collection posted at the time of his death. When I saw this one I quickly saved it. This might be my all-time favorite picture of the Wiesel. I will surely make more use of it.