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.
I literally could not put this book down and the most amazing thing about it is that its based on a true story. I’m not sure what bubble I have been living in, but before I read this I had no idea it was based on the true story of Lale and Gita. So when I found this out in the Author’s Notes at the end of the novel, I will admit I shed a couple of tears.
The book follows a Slovakian Jew called Lale and his survival in one of the most horrific concentration camps in the 1940s. A story of survival, kindness, courage, terror and love, I soaked up every single moment in this novel. It was terrifying, heartwarming and upsetting to read. In my opinion a book that can make you feel such a plethora of emotions, is always a bloody good book!
Finding out Lale was not just a brave character in a book but a real life person made me smile. His tenacity, charm, intelligence and wit not only saved himself and Gita but hundreds of starving, beaten prisoners in the camp. Heather Morris spent weeks interviewing Lale and states in the Author’s Notes “I sat with him at his kitchen table, this dear man with his trembling hands, his quivering voice, his eyes that still moistened sixty years after experiencing those most horrifying events in human history.” I found this description of Lale sad, he goes through so, so much in the novel and you see him as this strong and brave man throughout every awful twist and turn, but I guess at the time he had to be, survival was No1 and he couldn’t be anything but brave. Talking to Heather Morris about all these painful memories must have been so hard for him. To see a fully grown man broken like that must have difficult for her as well.
I have read quite a lot of fictional and factual books about WW2 and the concentration camps, and naturally every time I read more about it I’m still shocked and stunned that humans could treat other humans in such an awful disgusting way. This novel had me gripped at the edge of my seat from start to finish, it was beautifully written and the story of Lale and Gita will stay with me for a long time.
I have purposefully not written a lot about the novel itself, as it is so good I don’t want to give anything away or ruin it for anyone. If you like novels such as The Book Thief of The Boy in Striped Pyjamas then you will like this book too.
Have you read this novel? What did you think of it? I would love to know. Thanks for reading. Katie x