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What Magneto's Number Tattoo Means In X-Men '97

Perceptive viewers may have noticed that Magneto (Matthew Waterson) has a tattoo on "X-Men '97." It consists of the number 214782, and if you don't know the story behind the ink, it might seem like a throwaway detail. However, it's anything but.

Magneto is a Holocaust survivor, and the number tattoo is from his time at a concentration camp. He was imprisoned at the infamous Auschwitz around 1944, and the tattoo is his camp serial number, which the Nazis tattooed on prisoners' forearms. The number itself is fictional since the highest Auschwitz camp serial number of this particular type was 202499. Perhaps because of this, some stories have retconned the tattoo's numbers to 24005. 

Because of its integral role in Magneto's personal history, the numerical tattoo is a consistent part of his portrayal in both comics and live-action appearances. As such, its appearance on "X-Men '97" is perfectly canon and a crucial, if tragic part of the character.  

The tattoo is a visual reminder of Magneto's identity and motivations

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the X-Men as a superhero allegory for oppressed minorities, particularly as a metaphor for the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement. This underdog role is still intact since the Marvel universe hates the X-Men no matter what they do. However, both creators were Jewish and Kirby was a World War II veteran, so it isn't shocking that Magneto, the series' lead villain, is portrayed as a one-note racial supremacist in his initial appearances. 

The most crucial part of Magneto's entire backstory wasn't explained until 1981 when writer Chris Claremont — who was also Jewish and personally knew many Holocaust survivors — revealed that the supervillain's anti-human sentiment stems from his experiences at Auschwitz. Magneto's motivations and alignments have changed over the decades, but this core part of the character has remained.

The first scene in 2000's "X-Men" shows young Erik Lensherr (Brett Morris) being separated from his family at the gates of Auschwitz. In "X-Men: The Last Stand," an older Magneto (Ian McKellen) is confronted by the heavily tattooed Callisto (Dania Ramirez) about looking too human, and responds by showing his tattoo, stating that he's already been marked once. Perhaps most notably, Magneto's (Michael Fassbender) entire storyline in "X-Men: First Class" revolves around his quest to find the Nazi doctor who killed his mother and tormented him at Auschwitz, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). Because Magneto's history gets so much attention in live-action movies, it's only natural that the animated series features a nod to the Master of Magnetism's horrifying formative years. "X-Men '97" may change the future of Marvel mutants in the MCU, but that doesn't stop the show from remembering their past. 

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