A Beautiful Story About Nazi Tattoo Number 7-4-1-6

 Jerry Simon* first met Yehuda Finerman* at a kibbutz in Israel. Jerry had fled there after a brief stint in the U.S. Army, where he had encountered subtle and no-so-subtle forms of anti-Semitism. “Just a few short years after World War ll,” Jerry had thought in anguish, “and nobody seems to have learned any lessons. What kind of world do we live in”.

 One hot summer day, when the two were toiling side by side under the blazing sun and Yehuda’s shirtsleeves were rolled up high, Jerry couldn’t help but notice the numbers tattooed on his friend’s forearm---7416. He gasped

 What’s the matter, Jerry?” Yehuda asked.

 “I….I’m sorry, Yehuda,” Jerry stammered “I’m not trying to be nosy or anything, but I couldn’t help but notice the numbers on your forearm.”

 “Surely you’ve seen them on other survivors before,” Yehuda responded curtly.

 “Of course I have. It’s…it’s just…Well, what struck me as odd is that your concentration camp numbers----seven, four, one, six---just happen to be the last four digits of my American social security number!”

 ‘That’s what you’re so excited about?” Yehuda scottfed. “It’s just a meaningless coincidence.”

 “Look Yehuda,” Jerry pleaded, “I know it’s hard for you but I care about you, deeply. Could you tell me how you got those numbers?”

 Yehuda looked at Jerry thoughtfully. “Maybe it is a mistake for survivors to hide their experiences from the rest of the world. Maybe we were meant to serve as witnesses….All right Jerry. I’ll tell you exactly what happened.”

 For the next hour, Yehuda told his story. “And then, we stood on line at selection---my brother, my sisters, my parents, and I----and we were branded with these concentration camp numbers, in numerical order. I was next to last, followed by my brother. Afterward, we were split up, and I never saw any of them again. I was the only one in my family who survived the war.”

 Jerry was silent when Yehuda’s recital of the terrors he had suffered came to an abrupt end. What could he possibly say in the face of such suffering? Now he understood why survivors were loath to recount their stories. Their nightmare was truly unutterable, unspeakable. But still, the story had to be told…didn’t it?

 Many years later, Jerry had left the kibbuz and was working in the Jerusalem—Tel Avivarea as a tour guide for wealthy Americans who wanted to be personally chaperoned around Israel in a comfortable limousine. Most of his clients were kind and amiable, and Jerry generally enjoyed his job. But one day, he picked up a new client at the airport whose behavior was downright insufferable. The man was domineering, rude and harsh. He was a control freak and continually shouted orders at Jerry from the back of the car. Jerry clenched his teeth and made an almost superhuman effort to remain polite. Finally, just when he felt he couldn’t take it anymore, the man inexplicably shouted: “Pull over to the side of the road!”

 “What?” Jerry asked, confused.

 “I said, pull over! Look,” said the man to Jerry, who had turned around to face his tormentor, “you don’t like me very much do you?”

 Jerry was silent.

 “I know sometimes my behavior is obnoxious, offensive. Sometimes even I can’t quite believe what I’ve become. I’m sorry, I apologize. It’s just that…I’m so alone in the world. I’ve endured so much. There are nights I think I just won’t make it through….” And then the man broke down and cried. “You think I’m an arrogant, wealthy American businessman,” he said. “What I really am,” he sobbed, “is a Holocaust survivor.” He rolled up his shirt to show Jerry the numbers.


 The last four digits of Jerry’s social security number were 7416. He recalled the conversation he had had long ago with another Holocaust survivor, as the man cried: “I lost my whole family in the concentration camp, everyone was killed except for me. I have no one in the world!”

 Jerry stared at the American in shock and whispered, “My dear friend, you are wrong. Number seven-four-one-six is very much alive…and I happen to know exactly where he can be found.”