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Fabien Gilot’s Hebrew Tattoo

After winning gold, an athlete’s tribute to a grandfather figure

Adam Chandler
August 01, 2012

Out of the Olympics comes the story of Fabien Gilot and the French team, which shocked many by winning the gold medal in the 4×100 meter Freestyle Relay. It actually wasn’t until the last leg when the French team passed the Americans for the win. Another surprise came once the swimmers exited the pool and the tattoo of French swimmer Fabien Gilot was photographed.

It reads: אני כלום בלעדיהם – which in English means “I am nothing without them.”

The story behind the tattoo is pretty compelling. Gilot’s grandmother married a man named Max Goldschmidt, who, despite not being Gilot’s grandfather, occupied that very particularly influential role for Gilot.

Goldschmidt grew up in Berlin and survived Auschwitz before moving to France and meeting Gilot’s grandmother after the war. According to Gilot’s father Michel, Goldschmidt was an inspirational figure to Gilot, witnessing many of Gilot’s athletic triumphs and prompting Gilot to get his now-famous tattoo in tribute to this grandfather figure. Goldschmidt did not get to see Gilot win the gold this week, he passed away earlier this year.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.