The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 11 Feb 2018

Member Reviews

Funded via Kickstarter, Morris brings us the story of two people who will come to be known as Lale and Gita Sokolov - both born under other names, but through the horrific events of Auschwitz and surroundings, and what they had to go through even when they weren't behind barbed wire any longer, they found reason to seek other names for their future. Both Slovakian, introduced as prisoners, and finally winding up in Melbourne to tell Morris their story, we are drip fed their life from before, during, and after the war.

Lale was somehow fortunate (a weighted use of the word) to become, as the title says, the tattooist of Auschwitz. Sometimes working elsewhere but mainly there, he was one of those who cut into the arms of fellow prisoners, marked the numbers, then rubbed ink into the wound to create the tattoo. Gita, who had been a prisoner a little longer than Lale when they first meet, was also fortunate enough to work in administration - which however leaves each victim's name blazoned in her memory where Lale only has numbers. They meet when Lale has to re-tattoo Gita's faded numbers, and from there they keep meeting for short snatched minutes wherever possible, giving each other the strength when everything is hell in the limited hope they will someday be free and be able to marry.

During their years of incarceration, through intelligence, charm and charisma Lale manages to carve out ways to survive and look after those he can. There are women who are responsible for separating the shit personal items from the useful - when collected, the prisoners often didn't know where they would be going and so would bring what wealth they could - and Lale makes connects with them to be smuggled money and jewels where possible. He endeavours to read people and situations, make himself invaluable, and treads as carefully as he can in order to barter limited food and medicine to dole out to those who need it to most. He's not always careful enough, and comes close to death many times, however somehow manages (with a whole lot of luck, also) to make his way back to Gita every time. 

This is a heartbreaking and deserving story. There are countless historical fiction novels out there about this subject, but Lale and Gita are both marvellous people who, yes, did terrible things, but also saved the lives of many others, and were people who were kind where - if they weren't there - their place may have been taken with someone cruel and desperate, and in turn many more people may have perished. 

This was a fast read. It's not pleasant, it's hard, and you can only feel shame that this was what was experienced by such a staggering amount of people. Lale says he tells his story so it won't happen again. It's now up to readers to take the time to understand the horrific past, and individually do whatever necessary to make this world a better place.
Was this review helpful?
Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to love this book, it fell quite short for me. Perhaps it was the expectation I always harbor for a book about the Holocaust, or perhaps the book contained things that I just had a hard time believing.

This was basically a love story between two people, Lale and Gita who met while she was waiting to be tattooed by Lale and instantly fell in love. They manage to meet on many occasions and share time together and even make love. Lale, meanwhile is able to collect diamonds, money, and other jewels from people working in the sorting of prisoners' clothes which he barters for food, chocolate, and other things with a Russian workman and his son. He shares his food with those that he can which of course is a wonderful thing to have done. Eventually, when the war is close to ending, he is freed and while Gita has been sent away from Auschwitz he eventually meets up with her and they marry and have a son after immigrating to Australia.

In thinking about this novel, I believe it was the writing of the story which held it down for me. It seemed that the author made the telling so matter of fact and I could not perceive an emotional empathy that one is ever so sure any prisoner in Auschwitz would certainly have had.

I know that both Lale and Gita were real people who suffered immensely in the camp and of course lost so many family and friends. My heart breaks ever time I read a book that details the atrocities that were done to the Jews, Gypsies, handicapped and others during the war.

So, I am very sad that I did not connect with this story. At the end of the book, Lale and Gita's son wrote a foreword which was quite good with the right amount of emotion and love for his parents. I think perhaps he should have taken up the task of writing his parents' story. For through his few short pages, I saw more of Lale and Gita than the author showed me with the entire book.

Thank you to Netgalley and Zaffre for allowing an ARC for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
There is nothing like falling in love with the characters of a fiction story and then finding out that it is a true story! This was a beautifully engaging tale of a resilient hero. I am looking forward to owning it in paperback.
Was this review helpful?
Simply written but moving all the same.  There isn't much more that can be said about the horrors of the Holocaust except that I feel it's important to keep writing and reading books about it.  It feels weird to say that a book about such atrocities is GREAT but I really did enjoy this story.
Was this review helpful?
I read a lot of WWII books, so I was excited to get an ARC of The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris from NetGalley.  This book is a moving true story of tragedy, survival, hope and love.  Lale Sokolov's experience as a Jewish prisoner chosen to tattoo numbers onto the arriving prisoners of Auschwitz is a surprising and interesting point of view.  In the midst of horrific circumstances, Lale found a way to survive, to help many of his fellow prisoners and met the love of his life.  Sometimes the worst of humanity can bring out the best in others.  This book made me wonder about the countless other Holocaust stories that will never be told, and made me thankful that I got a chance to read this one.
Was this review helpful?
I have heard so many rave reviews about this book that I was so excited to get an advance copy from NetGalley to review. It is a remarkable story, beautifully written with great sensitivity, particularly considering the subject matter. It also appears to be an accurate historical insight into life in a concentration camp based on the true story of two survivors. Furthermore it is a moving love story, despite the difficult times, which really moved me.  
The unusual way the book is written in the present tense is refreshing and fairly novel and this style drew me in to the story deeply and made me feel like I was actually there. 
A powerful story which will remain with me.
Was this review helpful?
It tells the story of survival, horror, love, hope and sadness. It tells the story of two people in horrifying circumstances of the camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the things humans can do to other humans.

This is an incredible account of a prisoner of war in  Auschwitz, the things they saw, shared and lived. It is one of the only books I have read all year that I started and finished on the same day. This is a very harrowing book, with such descriptions of life in a prisoner of war camp,  the ways Lale used to survive during his three years there. He was very resourceful. The books is well written, from the point of view of Lale and occasionally from Gita, who Lale later marries and spends the rest of his life with.

This is a fantastic book to read, even though there have been so many other books written about the holocaust this one is special.
Was this review helpful?
As a Reader, are there certain themes that you know will break your heart when you pick a book to read?
I have three themes: war, genocide and abuse. If there's a book has any of these three as a theme or it's set in a time where a historic catastrophe occurred then I do my best to steer clear of it. So, clicking on this book on NetGalley was a conscious choice because based on the bit of history I read about the World Wars and Concentration camps, I learned that they branded people with numbers. I knew this book was going to break to my heart. I expected it to remind me of how cruel we can be as humans, but instead Lale's account of what happened at the concentration camps shattered my heart. Having been taken from his country Slovakia, Lale finds himself in a camp, he's tattooed and stripped of everything he knows- his name, identity, dignity but not his will to live. 
I'd recommend reading this book till the very end for I found his son's insight on their life and outlook in life very inspiring. 
I know that we can never write enough books, or have just one account of the greatest tragedies against humanity in history, but one thing is certain, this book's narration and writing style gives you a first hand insight into the atrocities committed in those camps and you'll never be the same after reading it.
Was this review helpful?
Harrowing, inspirational and deeply moving

Heather Morris spent 3 years with Lale, a Slovakian Jew and has made a wonderful job of retelling the story of his time in Auschwitz where he was tasked with tattooing those not immediately slaughtered by the Nazis. 

It is an unflinching portrayal of the atrocities the Nazi guards and officials inflicted on the people in this hideous camp but is also a story of enduring, all-consuming love and loyalty, compassion amongst truly desperate people and the bravery and determination to survive that got Lale through the three horrific Auscwitz years and the chaos and uncertainty of life after liberation.

This is a story of 'normal people' doing unspeakable things to their fellow human beings that needed telling and must be read ..... Lest we forget

4-4.5 stars Many thanks to Netgalley and Bonnier Australia for the opportunity to read this amazing true story.
Was this review helpful?