This week’s Sunday Book Review, I’m sharing my review of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, a gripping telling of a true survivor story written by Heather Morris, told by Lale Sokalov of his imprisonment in Auschwitz and what he did to survive. This is a compelling story of the human spirit with a determination to survive despite all odds of doing so.
The #1 International Bestseller & New York Times Bestseller
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.
“The Tattooist of Auschwitz is an extraordinary document, a story about the extremes of human behavior existing side by side: calculated brutality alongside impulsive and selfless acts of love. I find it hard to imagine anyone who would not be drawn in, confronted and moved. I would recommend it unreservedly to anyone, whether they’d read a hundred Holocaust stories or none.”—Graeme Simsion, internationally-bestselling author of The Rosie Project
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.
My 5 Star Review:
Love Among the Horrors.
A gripping horror story of the atrocities of the holocaust where death was impending for every victim imprisoned in Auschwitz, and only the tiniest of miracles kept them alive.
Lale Sokolav was taken to Auschwitz and by the grace of God because he could speak several languages, he was afforded the heinous job of tattooing the incoming truck loads of new prisoners. This job afforded Lale a few luxuries such as, extra rations of food – an extra helping of insidious looking broth and an extra slice of stale bread, and the chance to move freely within the camp.
Lale’s unfettered resolve to survive the horrors he endured and witnessed was remarkable. But the love he held for Gita, one of the women he freshly tattooed upon her arrival, became the driving force which gave him reason to continue living.
Lale takes us with him into the horror with his stories about how he managed to keep many alive by a plan he hatched with father and son coworkers he met while building a new crematorium. These coworkers were not prisoners but people who lived nearby the camp who worked there during early construction of the camp where more manpower was needed. Gita was assigned to work in a building where the belongings of new prisoners were taken and searched for hidden valuables. Lale made a deal with the two Polish workers and a group of Gita’s friends. The girls would smuggle out money and jewels for Lale to collect, which he used in trade with the Poles who would bring to work food and medicine. Lale distributed these items to prisoners he knew and were most desperately in need of and used some of the jewels to blackmail Kapos for favors. Kapos were not SS, but usually Jews themselves who were lucky to have been granted those positions, mainly for roll call of prisoners of barracks they were assigned to.
The author, Morris, evokes our compassion and empathy by bringing the love story of Gita and Lale in the horrific tale of merely trying to survive another day of hunger, disease and beatings, and the mere threat of wondering if they could survive another tomorrow.
No spoilers here, but I’m sure if you’re reading this review, you are wondering if Lale was ever caught by the SS for smuggling. But you will have to read this book to find out. Through reading this book, it’s no secret that Lale survives, but how he survived, escaped and found Gita again will keep you reading till the very last word and beyond. I say beyond because at the end of the book, Morris discusses her own personal interview with Lale and his son, which prompted her to write this book. For me, this book was unputdownable! A moving testament for the human spirit and for the determination to remain alive.