The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 11 Feb 2018

Member Reviews

I cannot remember the last time I read a better combination of history and story telling.  Heather Morris does an amazing job in relaying the story of Lale, the man who was responsible for tattooing the numbers on prisoners entering Auschwitz, as well as the how he comes to meet the love of his life inside the camp.  There are times throughout the book where a reader could easily think of it as a fictional story, that is how well Morris's writing flows.
The story itself is one of perseverance in the face of impossible odds.  Of doing what one must to survive, no matter the costs.  And also how little acts of kindness are never forgotten in moments of true pain and anguish, and can change the course of one's life.
While this is not a book I would typically be drawn to, I am so pleased I decided to read it.
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Holocaust fiction has lately been my kryptonite, I don't know what it is about this horrific time period
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Even to those closest to him, Lale had never revealed the whole story of his time in Birkenau and Auschwitz, believing people might regard him as a collaborator, due to his ‘privileged’ position as the tattooist. But, after his wife passed away, he decided the truth should be told.

Originally from Slovakia, where one male from each Jewish family was forced to surrender to the work camps, Lale had been a bit of a man about town, ladies’ man with the golden tongue, with the taste for the good life. In the camp he continues to use his smooth ways to ensure he, and many others, stay alive. 

As the tattooist he gets to move about a little more freely than the rest of the prisoners. Using this to his advantage, he quickly devises a system for trading jewels and money (which were taken from the Jews entering the camp) for medicine and extra food. He falls head over heels for one woman he helps in particular -- Gita -- and essentially the book was written as a gift of love for Gita.

What happened to people during the Holocaust is always shocking, no matter how much you know and how many times you read about it, and this book is no exception. The history of the many and varied ways the Jews suffered through this period needs to always be retold.

Lale's (and Gita's) story definitely needed to be told. His depressing and heartbreaking story of finding the love of his life whilst surviving Hitler’s death camps is without doubt mesmerising. From this viewpoint The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a 5 out of 5 read. Unfortunately, I did not completely connect with Morris’s writing style.

Morris basically stated what was happening with the characters and her prose lacked some of the emotion and depth I would expect from an author tackling such a story. She has readily admitted this was originally written as a screenplay and I think it shows. 

In my opinion Morris seemed to struggle with creating tension. So many situations Lale finds himself in were (obviously) fraught with danger yet I never had that fear gripping my insides as I turned the page as I imagined I should. I also didn’t completely feel the romance, which I think also lacked a little from the basic prose. 

The gas chambers, the crematorium, the medical experiments: Morris seemed to skim over these horrors. In fact, the way it was written assumes the reader knows all the details surrounding the camps. This is probably true for most mature readers but I wouldn’t think the book is a good starting point to learn about the Holocaust for young adult readers.

Morris also wraps up the book a little too quickly for my liking. Lale and Gita’s stories after the camps were liberated is just as fascinating and harrowing as their time behind the barbed wire. I would have liked this to have been written in more detail instead of a few chapters and an epilogue providing me with a recap. There was so much storyline that I think there could have been almost a second book of Lale and Gita’s life after the camp.

I recently saw an interview on The Project (Australian TV show) of Lale’s son and Morris. There, a fellow survivor who ended up also immigrating to Australia talked about how she had known Lale prior to the war and her tattooed number is particularly larger than the other prisoners as they had chatted for so long while he inked the numbers on her arm. They also mentioned that Lale and Gita were among the survivors who provided Spielberg with information for Schindler’s List. I was disappointed when neither of these interesting pieces of information were included in the book.

I still highly recommend the book but need to take a star off as I think this is a great book but not the important piece of literature it could have become with another writer. It is blatantly obvious, however, that Morris and Lale shared a bond. Lale trusted Morris with his story and I must respect the decision he made even if it caused me to not add the book onto my favourites list. 

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy.

4 out of 5
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A resounding 4.5 stars. 

This is the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian prisoners of Auschwitz. 

This is their story of how they met, fell in loved, and survived against all odds. It is a story of loss and grief but even more a story about the tenacity of the human spirit. I could not help but to be caught up in their story. I love Lale, his character and who he was as a person.

I equally love that I never felt like it was a story told from the authors pov, if that makes sense. It was very clearly Lale's story that was told, and I truly appreciated that.

**A free arc was provided to me by Netgalley for an honest review**
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This is a beautifully written, wonderfully researched novel about a Jewish man during WWII. The historical fiction novel is based on a real person who told his story to the author. He and his wife had kept their lives private after they moved to Australia after the war but after his wife died after over 50 years of marriage, he felt the need to share their story with the world.

Lale Sokolov was a young man when he decided to go to a work camp to save the rest of his family. He finds out later that this was a lie and most of the rest of his family didn't survive. He was given the role at a tattooist - the person who tattooed the numbers on the arms of the prisoners. Because he had a bit more freedom that most, he was able to get extra food to share with other people. One day he saw Gita and knew that he had to get to know her. The next several years were terrible for both of them and the atrocities that went on were horrendous. He managed to find her again after the war and they immigrated to Australia.

This is a beautifully written, wonderfully researched novel about a Jewish man during WWII. The historical fiction novel is based on a real person who told his story to the author. He and his wife had kept their lives private after they moved to Australia after the war but after his wife died after over 50 years of marriage, he felt the need to share their story with the world.

Lale Sokolov was a young man when he decided to go to a work camp to save the rest of his family. He finds out later that this was a lie and most of the rest of his family didn't survive. He was given the role at a tattooist - the person who tattooed the numbers on the arms of the prisoners. Because he had a bit more freedom that most, he was able to get extra food to share with other people. One day he saw Gita and knew that he had to get to know her. The next several years were terrible for both of them and the atrocities that went on were horrendous. He managed to find her again after the war and they immigrated to Australia.

This is a difficult story to read due to the horrible things that were going on in the camps but Lale had decided early on that he would survive and that thought kept him alive every day. So even though it's a very sad story - it's also very uplifting and shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.

Thanks to netgalley for a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.
This is a beautifully written, wonderfully researched novel about a Jewish man during WWII. The historical fiction novel is based on a real person who told his story to the author. He and his wife had kept their lives private after they moved to Australia after the war but after his wife died after over 50 years of marriage, he felt the need to share their story with the world.

Lale Sokolov was a young man when he decided to go to a work camp to save the rest of his family. He finds out later that this was a lie and most of the rest of his family didn't survive. He was given the role at a tattooist - the person who tattooed the numbers on the arms of the prisoners. Because he had a bit more freedom that most, he was able to get extra food to share with other people. One day he saw Gita and knew that he had to get to know her. The next several years were terrible for both of them and the atrocities that went on were horrendous. He managed to find her again after the war and they immigrated to Australia.

This is a difficult story to read due to the horrible things that were going on in the camps but Lale had decided early on that he would survive and that thought kept him alive every day. So even though it's a very sad story - it's also very uplifting and shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.

Thanks to netgalley for a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.
TThis is a beautifully written, wonderfully researched novel about a Jewish man during WWII. The historical fiction novel is based on a real person who told his story to the author. He and his wife had kept their lives private after they moved to Australia after the war but after his wife died after over 50 years of marriage, he felt the need to share their story with the world.

Lale Sokolov was a young man when he decided to go to a work camp to save the rest of his family. He finds out later that this was a lie and most of the rest of his family didn't survive. He was given the role at a tattooist - the person who tattooed the numbers on the arms of the prisoners. Because he had a bit more freedom that most, he was able to get extra food to share with other people. One day he saw Gita and knew that he had to get to know her. The next several years were terrible for both of them and the atrocities that went on were horrendous. He managed to find her again after the war and they immigrated to Australia.

This is a difficult story to read due to the horrible things that were going on in the camps but Lale had decided early on that he would survive and that thought kept him alive every day. So even though it's a very sad story - it's also very uplifting and shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.

Thanks to netgalley for a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.
his is a difficult story to read due to the horrible things that were going on in the camps but Lale had decided early on that he would survive and that thought kept him alive every day. So even though it's a very sad story - it's also very uplifting and shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.

Thanks to netgalley for a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.
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Touching story, but seems more fiction than factual.  Too many "coincidences" to seem real.  I got the feeling that the facts were greatly embellished.  The story was beautiful, though, a sweet love story in the midst of horror.
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This amazing story of Lale Sokolov, the tattooist of Auschwitz has been wonderfully retold by Heather Morris. It must have been heart wrenching for her to interview him in his later years, after the death of Gita, the woman he met and loved in Aushwitz and later married.

A Slovakian Jew, Lale answered the German's call for each Jewish Slovakian family to volunteer one healthy member of the family to work for Germany in exchange for protection for the rest of the family; needless to say the Germans' promise was not kept. Lale was transported to Auschwitz where something about his innate charm and hopefulness inspired the incumbent tattooist to take him on as his apprentice. After the resident tattooist disappeared, Lale took over his role and privileges with a room to himself, more food and greater freedom to talk to others including external Polish bricklayers who brought in food and medicine for him in exchange for money or jewels smuggled out by crematorium workers.

I have read other books on the atrocities of Aushwitz which were more graphically horrendous but instead of dwelling on the horror of Auschwitz, Lale's story concentrates on what it was like to be a prisoner working for the Germans and to do whatever it took to survive while somehow maintaining his humanity. Through all the horrors of watching daily torture, cremations and abuse by the German guards Lale always did what he could to make friends, share around extra food and protect those less fortunate. His efforts to look after Gita, a girl he loved at first sight when asked to refresh her tattoo, were ultimately responsible for her eventual survival. This is a wonderful story; definitely worth telling and compelling to reading.
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The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a very beautiful but haunting story. I have always been interested in learning more about WWII, and this one is certainly a 'good' book to read. I loved the simplicity of the writing because it made reading about the horrible conditions a bit better. Let's all just hope this never EVER happens again.
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After reading the excerpt, I'm very much looking forward to reading the whole book. Lale seems like a different kind of character, especially for a Holocaust story and I enjoyed that the story has a male protagonist. Many similar stories that I've read are female perspectives. I also felt immediately drawn into what will obviously be a melancholy landscape.
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Book Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz: based on the heart-breaking true story of love and survival, by Heather Morris
Publisher: Zaffre Publishing
Publication Date: January 11, 2018
Reviewed March 7, 2018.

When I was a little girl, about 4 years old, my mother took me to visit an older woman who lived alone, about 5 houses up the hill from our house. I don’t remember this woman’s name, but I remember going to her house. This woman had been a prisoner in Auschwitz. She showed me the tattoo of numbers on her inner forearm. 

I don’t imagine I had any understanding of Auschwitz, or what she had survived. But I do remember that somehow I understood something about her experience, because when I saw that tattoo on her arm, I was filled with terror and horror and deep grief. I didn’t understand really anything that she’d been through, but seeing that tattoo on her arm got through to me that something terribly wrong had been done to her, and what she’d lived through would never leave her. 

When I saw the tattoo, I started to cry and cried after we left, walking back to our home. I don’t know why my mother took me to see my neighbor, or why she wanted me to witness that tattoo. 

I am now 65 and it still haunts me. 

This book is a true story about a Slovakian young man who survived the concentration camps Auschwitz and Birkenau during World War 2. He was assigned to be the Tätowierer, the Tattoist, at Auschwitz and Birkenau. This job protected him in many ways and helped him to survive. 

He met a woman named Gita, and despite the horror of their lives, they fell deeply in love. 

When the Russians come to liberate the camps, the young man, Lale, and his beloved Gita become separated. He searched all over Europe, and are eventually were reunited. They end up leaving Europe and find asylum in Australia. They had a son, and lived to old age, always very much still in love. 

This was an extraordinary book to read. The horror of life in the camps. The ways that people did large and small things to help each other survive. 

The characters are beautifully drawn; the terror, brutality and horror of the camps are fully described. The narrative flows smoothly and the plot pacing is exquisite. 

This is a book that is both heart-breaking and uplifting. Love wins. I highly, highly recommend this book. Beware: not for the weak-hearted.

Reviewed on: NetGalley, Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook.
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My Rating:  4.5 stars
 
This was an incredible story, one that was extremely heartbreaking yet also hopeful and inspiring.  Based on the real-life experiences of Holocaust survivor Lale Sokolov, who wanted his story recorded prior to his death so that the harrowing events he went through “would never happen again”, this is a fictionalized account of the 3 years he spent at the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland during World War II.    After being saved from sure death upon arriving at the camp, Lale becomes the tattooist responsible for marking each of his fellow prisoners’ arms with the numbers used to identify them – a position that allowed more freedom and privileges than other prisoners though not immune to punishment and suffering.  Lale does the best he can to survive while also using his position to help others, whether it’s sneaking food and medicine to other prisoners or helping to better the plight of others where he can.  In the process, he meets the love of his life, Gita, a fellow prisoner in the women’s camp, and his devotion to her strengthens his resolve to survive the horrors in the hopes of building a future life together.  Lale’s story is one of courage, resilience, unwavering resolve and endurance in the face of terrible suffering, loss, death, and the unimaginable horrors and atrocities that went on in those camps.  As is always the case when we read these types of stories, we will never truly understand what these survivors went through, the extent of the pain and suffering they had to endure at the hands of other human beings, the price they had to pay – physically, mentally, emotionally – for survival, but we can be grateful, we can read and remember, reach out and get these stories out there, hope and encourage one another to learn from history and prevent these horrors from ever being repeated.  In the years since that horrific time period, we have come a long way, yet in many ways, we also have haven’t, which is why stories like these are SO IMPORTANT!
 
For me, the experience reading this book brought me back to the semester in high school when we studied the Holocaust in-depth in one of my history classes.  Despite the more than 2 decades that have passed, the memories came flooding back vividly as though it was just yesterday -- the memories of reading numerous stories and testimonies from survivors, watching countless interviews of survivors and their family members, reading and analyzing The Diary of Anne Frank, attending a special screening of Schindler’s List back when the movie first came out, culminating our studies with a visit to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles where we were given an immersive history lesson on the Holocaust and got to hear first-hand, several real-life survivors tell their stories.  The impact of those studies was powerful and I am grateful I went to a school that cared enough to truly educate and make learning about the Holocaust a necessary part of the regular class curriculum.   Sadly, these types of experiences in our schools are less and less common, and during a time when we as a society need it most, so it’s good to see informative books such as this one help bridge the gap somewhat.
 
I don’t think there is much else I can say except read this book (and definitely read the Author’s Note in the back that explains how this book came to be)!  Lale’s story is unforgettable and one that I know will stay with me for a long time to come!
 
Received ARC from Bonnier Publishing / Ecco via NetGalley
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The Prologue is a reminder that there can be humanity even in the darkest of circumstances.
This book's being told from a male perspective is different from many others. These young men 
had volunteered in order to save their families, little realising they would all pay the price anyway.
A very simple writing style disguises extremely disturbing details : not the sort of thing one would
ordinarily choose to read, but because these are real people we owe it to them. The indomitableness
 of the human spirit, the power of belief - even the most unthinkable can be endured.
Thankyou, Heather Morris, for your part in sharing this testament with the rest of the world - it cannot
have been easy, but it is so important.
The theme 'if you can't help everyone, help one' is a lesson we can all carry into our own lives.
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I read about this book first on a BBC feature of the same name, and I couldn't wait to pick it up. No matter how many stories you read about this particular subject matter, you never stop being appalled at the horrors that transpired in these horrible places, what man is ready to do another of his kind in the name of, well, anything. A harrowing piece of work, very well written !
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Heart rendering, tear jerking brilliant read. 
Made all the more hard hitting knowing it is a true story, and amongst all the hell these poor people endured love still shown through.
Even if war books are not your normal reading material I do honestly think you should give this book a read and you will not be disappointed that you took a chance on it.
Just have some tissues to hand as you will undoubtedly need them!
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This book definitely caught my emotions and made my heart sink a few times, but that’s what expected of books that are beautiful written and tragic. I loved this book despite the gut wrenching realities of the halocaust, but over all this book is worth reading.
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Definitely an interesting read. It's definitely not my first holocaust related memoir since there are quite a few well known ones that often enter school curriculums. It's an interesting story and definitely worth the read.
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I am a huge fan of WWII history. This book did not disappoint.   Even in the middle of hell, love proves to be stronger.  I'm in awe of their bravery and triumph over pure evil.
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**I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**  4.5 stars

""What block are you in?"" 'Nine.' How many lives does a cat have?"

This book sat in my 'To Be Read' pile for a long time. Throughout my childhood I couldn't read enough about WWII, but after finding out that both of my grandparents were prisoners and hearing their stories, the books became too real for me. Fast forward to nearly 20 years later and this is the first interaction with historical fiction on the this topic that I've touched and I loved every second I spent with this book. You know those books where your time with them feels much too short? This is one of those books. At a little over 200 pages, this book could have easily been another couple of hundred pages long and it would have only benefited the already great story. 
If you're on the fence about reading this book for reasons like mine, I highly encourage you to just pick up a copy of this book. It's both tragic and heart-warming. It's set primarily on the grounds of  Auschwitz/Birkenau and follows Lale, a man who has been tasked with tattooing incoming prisoners. He marks the body's of thousands, but he does so much more for nearly everyone he encounters through his three long years in the concentration camp.
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There is no shortage of Holocaust stories and I read enough psychological thriller/suspense/mystery books so why I would be attracted to The Tattooist of Aushwitz is beyond me.    Based on years of interviews between the author and Lale Sokolov (“The Tattooist” ),  the story of Lale and Gita Sokolov is quite extraordinary.

 Lale holds the position  of “Tattooist” at Aushwitz - marking those who have a chance at survival.  It is when he tattoos Gita that he falls in love at first sight and vows that he and Gita will survive and know freedom together one day.  What is so striking about this book is, amid the daily horror and wretchedness,  Lale never loses his integrity and compassion  - never loses his will to live nor his hope and belief that he will survive.   

The story is quite emotional and often I wondered how two people could fall in love under such circumstances but more so I wondered how a person could have such strength and courage  to hold on to the hope and belief that they would survive - how could a person still believe in the “goodness of mankind”; how could a person still see beauty in a lone flower;   how could a person remain sane in such madness?

Lale and Gita do go on to survive Aushwitz, marry, and raise a son.  The Tattooist of Auschwitz is an incredible story shows the power and deep capacity of the human spirit.

Thank you NetGalley and publisher so much for the advance digital copy!
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This story tug at my heart more so because I know it's a true story.  I can't even imagine having to tattoo numbers on the prisioners and this book provides a detailed description of what was going on at that point in time. 
Their loved story touched me as well.
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