The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris #BookReview

The Tattooist of Auschwitz def


What’s it about?

Based On An Incredible True Story

What makes a survivor?

Lale Sokolov is well-dressed, a charmer, a ladies’ man. He is also a Jew. On the first transport of men from Slovakia to Auschwitz in 1942, Lale immediately stands out to his fellow prisoners. In the camp, he is looked up to, looked out for, and put to work in the privileged position of Tetovierer – the tattooist – to mark his fellow prisoners, forever.

One day as Lale is tattooing the arm of a young woman, he looks into her eyes and falls instantly in love.

His life given purpose, Lale does his best through the struggle and suffering to use his position for good.

This story, full of beauty and hope, is based on years of interviews author Heather Morris conducted with real-life Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov. It is heart-wrenching, illuminating, and unforgettable.

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No matter how many historical novels of this nature I read – and I’ve read about a dozen books about WWII already – it’ll never ever be enough to grasp the entirity of monstrocities that fell upon those held captive and how they found the strength to survive these atrocities. The number of testimonies from survivors is unfortunately dwindling fast as time goes by and I’m very grateful that Lale Sokolov found the courage to revisit his past and share his personal story. It’s a cruel legacy of an era but so important that we never forget.

I’ve actually met Lale as a character in plenty of books before, without him ever being named. He was always someone in the periphery of a story but I never thought about the person who actually saw everyone still so unknowing of what was waiting for them when they entered those gates of Birkenau or Auschwitz, and gave them their camp number. Lale has the job of Tettovierer, one of the better jobs that gives him a better place to sleep, more food and a little bit more freedom to help others. He has a guard with him every time he goes to work called Baretski but he was able to talk to his guard and was treated fairly well by him given the circumstances.

He’s such a gentle soul and Lale felt particularly bad tattooing old people and young girls because he knew the first group’s fate was sealed and that Mengele had an unhealthy interest in the second group. Mengele often came by to inspect the new arrivals and to select new girls for whatever he had in mind. Lale didn’t want to hurt the girls so he did his best to be tender. He grew up with respect for girls and women, his mother taught him well.

However barbaric and hellish life was, there is beauty to be found in this novel as well. It’s hard to believe but in these grisly circumstances, where there’s nothing left to enjoy and happiness is nothing but an alien feeling, two people were able to find love. Lale falls in love the moment he lays eyes on a girl waiting to be tattooed. It’s quite incredible that the ability to still feel so much for someone never dies. The contrast with his surroundings couldn’t be bigger and made me feel it even deeper. Lale falls heads over heels for Gita and it strengthens his resolve to go on another day and another… I don’t think I’ve ever felt happier about a love story than now. I wished it so hard for them, they were so deserving of each other and I could only hope with all my heart it wouldn’t come to a cruel end. Loving someone when you don’t have the power to safeguard them, when you don’t know if they are still going to be there the next day, is dangerous but a risk Lale is willing to take. The heart can’t be dictated and I found tremendous joy in the fact the SS weren’t able to take that away at least.

I really admired Lale from the very start of this novel, his positivity and his determination to survive shine through from the very beginning and it was wonderful to see how he tries to give Gita hope when she sees none. He’s her light at the end of the tunnel and she means everything to him too. Heather Morris did a brilliant job writing Lale’s personal story, and even though it was a very compelling testimony and there were still many sad moments to get through, the overruling feeling after I finished it is one of warmth and contentment for these two individuals. Lale and Gita’s love story was a perfect counterweight for the predominant harshness of this novel.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher through Netgalley. This is my honest opinion.

23 thoughts on “The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris #BookReview

  1. Pingback: Blog Posts I’ve Enjoyed This Week #7 – Secret Library Blog

    • One thing’s for certain, when I read another novel from now on, I’ll pay closer attention to whenever he’s mentioned. Now I can really fill it in with a face and personality. He wasn’t alone btw, he had a fellow prisoner next to him but to do this job, the amount of people they’ve had to tattoo, it’s unbelievable. Thank you Captain!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Honestly? The “position” of a tattooist in Auschwitz never even crossed my mind! But of course, there was a tattooist and of course… *sigh*
    Every WWII/Nazi related book I read is so utterly shocking and heartbreaking BUT… each of these books always comes with something more. That incredible good, selfless and kind side to human nature that persevered in those evil times, against all odds. It would have been easy to give up on everything.. just let the light go out of their eyes and succumb, but instead, they decided to persevere, and love, care and look out for others despite relentless cruelty!
    Beautiful review, Inge! I must read this book!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve never really thought about the actual person behind the ‘job’ either and what it would do to him and his colleague having to tattoo people, marking them as they’re nothing more than a number from then on. The amount of people he must have seen (he was responsible for the two camps with another prisoner)… It’s sometimes as hard for me to understand why they didn’t end it themselves as why the SS shot people for just ‘being there’. I admire people like Lale though again and again for being so resourceful, for sharing food when they haven’t got enough for themselves, for helping others, for taking risks so that others can live.. He’s been lucky quite a few times also, but I don’t know if you could have really made it without a bit of luck on your side…. It’s a great novel, I kind of wished I had the paperback as I’m probably going to re-read this in the future at some point :-). Thank you Liis!

      Liked by 2 people

      • You’re right… there always has to be a bit of luck on one’s side… and as for the being the kindest, most selfless person during hard times- it’s something that for some reason has always been like that… take all those street experiments, even where it always turned out that the ones who already were struggling were the ones who gave the most…

        Liked by 1 person

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  4. Pingback: Off the Charts and On the Horizon – the tattooist of auschwitz (Heather Morris) | Captain's Quarters

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