Release date: January 11, 2018
Genre: Fiction/Historical Fiction
Premise: This beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov—an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity.
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 over 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.
Thoughts + Feelings: I want to start off by saying that I loved The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Sometimes I worry about reading books from this time period because of the pain and anguish that was caused in the millions of lives of Jews, Gypsies and other communities that were extinguished during the Holocaust.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a story of love and pain. Based on the very real life of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, we follow his journey through the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau where he ultimately becomes the tätowierer for the concentration camps. While tattooing the incoming prisoners, Lale meets Gita. You can tell from the moment that they cross paths that the story is going to turn down a romantic road, although its challenging to imagine as the workers are building crematoriums and housing for the thousands of individuals pouring into the camps.
This book was written as historical fiction and “based on a true story.” So while it appears that Lale may have remembered every detail of his life from the concentration camps, the books webpage makes it known that there was some creative license taken to fill in time space or delve into characters thoughts. It was also originally written as a screenplay, so there is a huge amount of dialogue.
The story is memorable. With a huge portion of the survivors passing way, it is not often that you hear stories of what happened in the camps. You don’t realize the tasks that these individuals were given. I asked myself – How could you possibly tattoo numbers on your own people and prepare them for death? Lale answers this throughout the text. You do what you need to do to survive. You bribe people; you help your neighbors if you can. While you may not believe in your faith, you believe that you will survive.
The authors note at the end provided an even better glimpse into the world of Lale and Gita. Prior to Lale’s death, he wanted to tell his story. He was connected with Heather Morris who took the time to listen, and question his story to truly understand how to connect the dots for the rest of the world. I can only imagine listening to the powerful story, but not getting it in one full swing. Heather Morris had to tie together the pieces from where Lale was comfortable and figure out what fit where. I am truly blown away by the piece of work that came out of their time together.