Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Posted January 5, 2018

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Published by Bonnier Zaffre on 11th January 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads

Lale Sokolov is well-dressed, a charmer, a ladies’ man. He is also a Jew. On the first transport from Slovakia to Auschwitz in 1942, Lale immediately stands out to his fellow prisoners. In the camp, he is looked up to, looked out for, and put to work in the privileged position of Tätowierer– the tattooist – to mark his fellow prisoners, forever. One of them is a young woman, Gita, who steals his heart at first glance.

His life given new purpose, Lale does his best through the struggle and suffering to use his position for good.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is the result of years of interviews between the author, Heather Morris, and Auschwitz-Birkenau survivor Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov. Originally written by Morris as a screenplay, she has now adapted her work to create her debut novel – and what a debut it is! Based upon Lale’s own harrowing story, this is a book that needs to be read and shared, with subject matter that should never be forgotten.

I actually wrote a whole draft review upon finishing this book, but honestly, I just didn’t feel like it did the book justice. I’m actually of the mind now that nothing I write will properly convey my feelings on this book. So, please, stick with me as I try to string some words together.

Lale was 24, a smart, linguistic young man from a Jewish family living in Slovakia. Every family in Slovakia was forced to provide one child over the age of 18 for work detail with the Germans. Lale volunteered himself to save his family, to prevent them from being rounded up into a concentration camp. Not knowing where he was headed or what would face him, Lale left home impeccably dressed as always, ready to face his fate.

This was how Lale found himself crammed into a cattle carriage with other men, headed for Auschwitz. Lale was assigned to the sister camp, Birkeneau and there made a promise to himself that he would survive. His intelligence and charisma meant he was noticed among thousands of others and assigned the role of Tatoweirer, the tattooist – a position which offered him a slightly better life in the camp, but with the traumatic task of marking every prisoner for life with their assigned number. It was through his role as Tatoweirer that Lale set eyes on Gita, a young lady who compounded Lale’s determination to stay alive.

Lale used his relative freedom in the camp to help others, to source and deliver food to keep his fellow prisoners alive, but such actions put him in great danger.

Lale seems like such an incredible man. His attitude, philosophies, and kindness shine through in this novel. I feel that Morris has done a brilliant job of telling this story – I couldn’t put this book down. Despite the horrors within its pages, this is also a tale of love, friendships, and hope. It’s a story that made me stop and think about the individual stories of other prisoners in these camps, what they had to do to stay alive and who they lost along the way. Stories that we will never know but that we should never forget existed.

This is a short novel but it packs a huge punch; the combination of Heather Morris’ storytelling and Lale’s unforgettable true story make this book impossible to put down.

PS I still don’t feel like my words have done this book justice, so just please READ IT!

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