Sunday Book Review – The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Book reviews by D.G. Kaye


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.


38 thoughts on “Sunday Book Review – The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

  1. Hi Debby, My husband, Eric, has just finished reading “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” and,being Jewish, it never makes such books an easy read…I have also read several harrowing books about the horrors of such places, and coincidentally, the most recent book I’m working on takes place in Poland in 1939. (A slow process to write…) It’s amazing how many people survived World War 11. Peace and love. x


  2. What a tale of survival. This is my favorite type of story–how man survives against all odds. I had no idea the German prison camps even had a tattooist–which of course they did. But one of the prisoners? Thanks for sharing your review, Deb.


    1. Thanks Jacqui. Those numbers engraved in every prisoner’s arms had to be tattooed by someone right? These stories are difficult to stomach sometimes, but like you, I read them to gen inspiration from those who suffered inhumanity, yet, never lost their spirit to survive.


  3. I’ve been trying to get the courage up to read this one. It’s one I know I’ll read but have got to be in the right frame of mind. I looks absolutely amazing. ❤


  4. Hi Debby – how desperate … yet even through the horrors the human spirit of dignity and care live on – it does sound a very good read … but I suspect I won’t be able to read it … thanks for the excellent review though – not easy at all – Hilary


  5. Deb, your intense review of this book reminds me of a similar book I have read this summer…‘Born Survivors’ by Wendy Holden, which is an incredible story of three women and concentration camps into which they were pushed just because they belonged to a community, which was detested by the Nazis, the self-proclaimed superior race! The true story that focuses on Priska, Rachel and Anka is horrific beyond imagination, powerful and heart wrenching yet inspiring as it also brings out the determination of human beings to survive in the face of shame, hunger, inhuman conditions and unbearable cold weather. It is the human spirit that emerges victorious in the end, vanquishing all those who didn’t spare a single effort to annihilate a human race.
    I was horrified beyond imagination and the impact of the cruelty of man against man remained on my mind for many days!


    1. Thanks for sharing your take on Wendy’s book, you can be sure I’m bookmarking it! Like you, I find books like these a gripping read and difficult, but the stamina to endure and overcome that keeps these survivors alive is so incredulous I can’t help but be captivated by stories of the human spirit. And yes, these types of books we don’t soon forget. xx


  6. A brilliant review Debby for a book that must be difficult to read for so many. The story of survival though is the key element as you say and it should be required reading for all young people. We keep saying we must not forget… but as time goes by generations do not remember and do not understand the horrors of war or the evil that men do. ♥


    1. Succinctly said Sal. Books like these have much to teach and remind us. I think it would serve everyone to read a book like this in these changing times. ❤ ❤


  7. This sounds like a very compelling book, Debby. It is very difficult for us to understand the horrors that these people faced. That any survived is truly a miracle. We have to do all we can to ensure such barbarity never happens again.


  8. Hi, Sis. What an amazing review. You did a great job. These types of books stop me from sleeping. I get so empathically connected that I can’t deal with my emotions. This entire era is haunting. Hugs and love for finding the courage to read this novel. ❤ By the way, I can't get into Facebook at all. I sent you a message on WhatsApp. ❤


    1. Thanks Sis. Not every book is for everyone. I happen to be fascinated by this part of history and how the human spirit prevails despite the atrocities. ❤ xxx


  9. A book I have been trying to get my hands on for a while and want to read it even more…We should not forget and it must be so hard for some to read and some may never…But an important message to future generations who should know what really happened..Sadly atrocities are still happening ..Will it stop? I don’t believe it ever will.A great review, Debby 🙂 xxx


  10. Debby, an excellent review of a harrowing book. I consumed this within two days over the summer…and as you say their indomitable spirit keeps them alive. More than anything this book brought the everyday life amongst the horrors alive, where love flourished and ensured each other’s survival. I was interested how Morris came to write the book, her efforts to win the trust of Lale to tell his story and her determination to write it with accuracy and heart. I also felt there is a book or two of their lives after the war.


    1. Thanks Annika. Happy to hear from someone else who has read this book. Yes, I quite enjoyed the end of the book where she talks about the life of Gita and Lale after the war. It’s a bonus glimpse into assimilation back into real life after the horrors. 🙂


  11. this sounds like an amazing read, Deb. Also, important historically. It’s too easy to forget the horrors. Is it fictional at all or completely biographical? Just curious if the author took liberties to embellish (nothing wrong with that) or if it’s a pure non-fiction. thanks for sharing your review. I will add this one to my TBR.


  12. Wow. It sounds like an extremely powerful story, Debby. As we Canadians witness (from next door) the US leadership’s decline into fostering public prejudice and hate, I am reminded of C.S. Lewis thoughts about The Moral Law, The Law of Right and Wrong, and The Rule of Decent Behaviour. He argues that human beings, wherever we are, know these rules almost instinctively, and know when we are breaking them. That’s what makes events like slavery and the holocaust, and stories like this one, even more tragic. Human beings know it’s evil, but do these things anyway, defending our actions as we go along.


    1. I wholeheartedly agree with you Cynthia. These are scary times indeed, especially when there’s so much ‘monkey see, monkey do’, and some of that hatred is seeping its way through our own borders! 😦


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