The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival—literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival.
There have been many books about the Holocaust—and there will be many more. What makes this one so memorable is Lale Sokolov’s incredible zest for life. He understood exactly what was in store for him and his fellow prisoners, and he was determined to survive—not just to survive but to leave the camp with his dignity and integrity intact, to live his life to the full. Terrible though this story is, it is also a story of hope and of courage. It is also—almost unbelievably—a love story. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale—a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer—it was love at first sight, and he determined not only to survive himself but to ensure that Gita did, too. His story—their story—will make you weep, but you will also find it uplifting. It shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.
Like many survivors, Lale and Gita told few people their story after the war. They eventually made their way to Australia, where they raised a son and had a successful life. But when Gita died, Lale felt he could no longer carry the burden of their past alone. He chose to tell his story.
There are so many WWII fiction novels out there, and I have read many of them, but The Tattooist of Auschwitz has managed to stand out among the rest. I have never read a story that focuses on a tattooist in a concentration camp. The book is based on a true story and knowing that makes it that much more powerful and gut-wrenching. Heather Morris interviewed the real-life Lale Sokolov and this is her take on their story. Here is a article from Publishers Weekly about Morris meeting Lale; it is definitely worth reading.
As someone who is not usually a fan of love stories, the relationship between Lale and Gita is an exception. It was a shining light in an otherwise dark situation. There was definitely an element of hope in this story. It was amazing to see all of the characters’ strength and will to live. I also found myself connecting with the side characters and my heart would shatter any time something would happen to one of them.
I really appreciated the fact that The Tattooist of Auschwitz taught me something. I figured after reading so many WWII novels that there was not much more I could learn about that time but of course I was wrong. There were so many injustices that happened during WWII that I will never know or truly comprehend it all.
I shed both sad and happy tears throughout this entire novel. Do not read it in public! I was an absolute mess. This is a story that will stay with me and I think it is one of my favourite love stories ever. It felt so completely raw, real and hopeful.
“To save on is to save the world.”
“How can someone do this to another human being? He wonders if for the rest of his life, be it short or long, he will be defined by this moment, this irregular number: 32407.”
“The girls who work there dream of a place far away where there is plenty of everything and life can be what they want it to be. They have decided Canada is such a place.”
“If you wake up in the morning, it is a good day.”
Thank you so much to Harper Collins Canada for sending me a copy of The Tattooist of Auschwitz in exchange for an honest review.