In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.
Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.
One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.
A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov's experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.
My youngest sister was the person who introduced me to this book. She read it in school and kept encouraging the rest of the family to read it and I'm so happy that I finally picked up a copy.
Prior to reading this, I had the same level of knowledge as most people on Auschwitz and the concentration camps but this book really opened my eyes to the incomprehensible suffering so many people endured. To think this happened in our grandparents' lifetime is just unbelievable. The fact that we, humans, can do this to one another is a truly terrifying thought.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a story of pure survival and finding love in the most unlikely of places. A place like Auschwitz was created to destroy the very souls of each of its prisoners and crush any hope that dared to linger in the light. The way Morris tells Lale's story brings this awful period in our history to life in a way that clearly highlights the horrors that so many people went through but in a way that is accessible to many readers. A topic such as this is not for the faint hearted but I commend how Morris masters Lale's voice in a way that has storytelling at the heart but it doesn't belittle or takeaway from the severity of everything he, and so many others, went through.
I won't lie, some scenes are very graphic and difficult to read. There are times when the prisoners of the camp are walking through the smoke and ash that come from the crematoriums, only to fall to their knees in the realisation that they are walking through all that remains of their friends, families and allies that they have met during their time there. It's truly harrowing and upsetting but it gives the much needed spotlight on a period that can't and shouldn't be forgotten.
I could honestly go on forever about this book as it of course opens so many conversations around WWII, the Holocaust and more. Whether or not you are interested in WWII or historical fiction, I would still recommend that you read this book. Despite its upsetting and heavy storyline, it shows that even in the darkest points of our history, love and humanity can still persevere.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is the heart breaking story of how the human spirit can endure so much but still not give up hope.
IN 3 WORDS/PHRASES:
'If you wake up in the morning, it is a good day.'
I thought Lale was an amazing protagonist and the fact that he is a real person and so many of these things actually happened to him is beyond belief.
I feel a story like this can't be rated.