The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: September 4, 2018
Heather Morris is a native of New Zealand who now resides in Australia. Morris studied and wrote screenplays for several years before she was introduced to a man “who might just have a story worth telling”. That man turned out to be Lale Sokolov, the man whose story is told in The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Initially Morris wrote Lale’s story as a screenplay, however, she later decided to reshape it and make it into her debut novel.
Author bio condensed from Goodreads
The Tattooist of Auschwitz Synopsis
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 324207, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 33902 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.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz Review
Before we discuss my thoughts on The Tattooist of Auschwitz I want to mention two things. The first thing that I want to mention is that this book covers a very heavy subject. Readers need to be prepared for that going in. The second thing that I want to mention is that the Auschwitz Memorial Research Centre has disputed that some of the events mentioned in the book do not match what they know to be true. Morris replied to this stating that 95% of the book is researched and confirmed. It has been noted by supporters of the book that this is labeled as a novel, based on the life and not a biography. Now let’s talk about what I thought of the book.
Have you ever sat and listened to someone tell you a story from their past. How they drift away from you and it’s like they’re there, in the past, and not sitting right next to you. How some parts are so clear to them that they could be happening right in front of them. How some parts are kind of hazy but they try to explain them to you the best that they can. How there are some parts that they refuse to relive so you have to fill that part in with your own imagination. That is what I felt reading this. As I read I felt like Lale was sitting right next to me with his eyes closed, head tilted back, reliving parts of a past that whether he is exactly right or exactly wrong, no one should ever be able to remember because they never should have lived it. I held my breath when he describes going into Auschwitz. My heart skipped a beat when he sat down in the tattooist chair and he realized what he was about to do to his own people. I cringed when he was beat by the Nazi’s. I had to put the book down and take a minute because I couldn’t read through my tears when he realizes that the Nazi’s are building gas chambers and using people from the camp to do it.
It’s important that details about the Holocaust are right because for any one detail to be wrong gives deniers more ammunition. However, whether right or wrong I think The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a book that everyone should read. You should read it and take in the atrocities done to a group of people whose only crime was being different. I went to a Holocaust museum when I was in high school so I had been introduced to the horror that was the internment camps. However, no exhibit, no picture, no words in a textbook telling you about the generalness of it can can have the impact of someone’s story who has actually lived it.
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