Auschwitz Survivor Says She Has Kept Death Camp Tattoo As Warning Against Holocaust Denial

Agi Geva considers herself one of the lucky ones. The 88-year-old survived the horrors of the Holocaust and an ordeal that saw her pass through one of the most notorious Nazi death camps—Auschwitz.

Hungarian-born Geva, her older sister and her mother all endured the "final solution," shunted between various concentration and work camps until they were liberated by American troops while on a forced death march weeks before the war ended.

At Auschwitz, the trio made it through multiple "selections"—in which Nazi soldiers decided who would be put to work and who would be put to death in the gas chambers.

Noticing that those deemed too young were being separated from the older women, Geva's mother used a scarf to make her youngest daughter—then around 14—look older.

In the years since, Geva emigrated to Israel where she married a fellow Holocaust survivor and started a family. She later moved to the U.S., where she still lives.

But as the world marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, anti-Semitism is on the rise in North America and Europe and genocides are underway elsewhere against other minority groups. The world has not delivered on the collective vow of "never again."

Geva spoke to Newsweek on the eve of the commemorations, and explained how her mother Rozsa—who died aged 98—had long warned that anti-Semitic rhetoric and Holocaust denial risked facilitating fresh atrocities.

Geva explained that she still bore the numbered tattoo forced on victims by the Nazis. Though a reminder of the horrors she witnessed, Geva said that her mother saw the tattoos as an important historical marker. "Her wish to us—to my sister and to myself—was that we should never surgically remove the tattoo."

"This is the living proof that we were there and that the Holocaust happened," Geva added. "She was already then concerned that...people might say it never happened. We have all this proof."

People need to be "very careful" when presented with disinformation alleging that the Holocaust was somehow faked or exaggerated, she added.

Recent years have seen a resurgence in nationalist politics on both sides of the Atlantic. Populist, nativist politicians have won and expanded power across the Western world while demonizing foreigners and immigrants.

World leaders will attend commemoration ceremonies this week, but for some their day-to-day politics run against what such events stand for. For Geva, "it is a very sad, scary reminder of the years of 1939 and 1945, very scary and bad...we should do whatever we can do about it to change the atmosphere."

Geva said she remains hopeful that world leaders will be positively influenced by Holocaust remembrance. The lesson of the commemoration should be "to be helpful to each other, to be very involved and not to look to the other side when injustice is happening," Geva explained.

A key part of fostering this attitude is education, Geva argued. For the world's young generations, "the more they know, the less problems we shall have," she said.

Her hopeful outlook, Geva explained, is perhaps a product of the fact that her sister and mother survived alongside her against all the odds. "I was very, very lucky," she said.

"I would maybe speak differently with more negative feelings had I not been saved by my mother and my sister stayed with me. I'm very, very lucky and those who were not have to speak differently than me."

Agi Geva, Holocaust, survivor, tattoo, holocaust denial
This photo shows Holocaust survivor Agi Geva on 26 April 2018. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum