I can’t believe I waited so long to pick up this book! I “borrowed” it from my library and accessed it through Hoopla in the audio version. It took me 7 hours and 45 minutes to listen to Lale’s story and I am so thankful that I did!
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is the true story of Lale Sokolov, written by an Australian, non-Jewish author, Heather Morris. Lale chose Heather to share his experiences at the concentration camp, because she had little to no knowledge about the Holocaust and would be open to hearing his history and fact checking without any personal connection to the horrific happenings that occurred during an unbearable time. Lale, in his early 20s, was from Slovakia and ended up at Auschwitz, separated from his family. He was working at different jobs in the camp until ultimately, he was chosen to be the tatowierer, the tattooist to put a number on each of the prisoners, including the women. During the time Lale was at Auschwitz, he tattooed thousands of arms with numbers, the horrific symbol that branded prisoners during the Holocaust. When Lale met Gita in line to receive her tattoo, he knew, this was the girl he would fall in love with, and he vowed to stay alive so he could marry her when the war was over.
The bravery Lale exhibited to help others survive and keep those he cared for safe was indescribable. No acts of courage were without guilt and shame; those that were close to the SS officers were looked at with suspicion but choices had to be made to just stay alive. The love Lale and Gita shared gave them hope to continue the fight for life, and author Heather Morris conveys through Lale’s stories the goodness many people exhibited to try and help others when they could. There are also many examples of pure hatred, stupidity and inhumane behaviors the Germans carried out; hard to comprehend how people could treat others the way they did.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a personal account of a brave man’s life while being captive in Auschwitz during World War ll and it is also a beautiful love story. It is incredibly sad, maddening, emotional and inspiring. Lot’s of tears for me as I listened to this one. Hearing the story told to me allowed me to get swept away in fear, sorrow and hope. Even though the story is true as told by Lale Sokolov in many conversations over time to Heather Morris, the book is considered historical fiction because the dialog has been created and the information about the girl’s camp was provided to the author from others, not just Lale.
I regret waiting so long to pick up this book, highly recommend it, and plan on reading Heather Morris’s next book, Cilka’s Journey. Cilka was one of Gita’s best friends in the camp and she is the one that saved Lale’s life. Her closeness with an SS officer, due to her “job” as his bedmate gave her leverage to get him out of imminent danger, though she ultimately paid the price.
For other perspectives during the time of the Holocaust, check out these fantastic books:
About the Author, Heather Morris:
I am a Native of New Zealand now resident in Australia, working in a large public hospital in Melbourne. For several years I studied and wrote screenplays, one of which was optioned by an academy award winning Screenwriter in the U.S. In 2003, I was introduced to an elderly gentleman “who might just have a story worth telling”. The day I met Lale Sokolov changed my life, as our friendship grew and he embarked on a journey of self scrutiny, entrusting the inner most details of his life during the Holocaust. I originally wrote Lale’s story as a screenplay – which ranked high in international competitions – before reshaping it into my debut novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.