The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 11 Feb 2018

Member Reviews

Touching, heartwrenching, tragic... even though the subject matter is horrific, the author still manages to make it a beautiful and touching book
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Amazing! Have a box of tissue ready for this one ..
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Even though the theme of this book is horrific, I love to hear how resilient people can be when put into difficult situations. How some can keep a glimmer of hope and to be able to act in a way opposite of what they normally would do to survive.
It is the true story of Lale and Gita, as Lale relays their story to the author. 
It is the story of the will to live and how these two people meet and end up falling in love. Lale, soon after he arrives at Birkenau is assigned a job to help a fellow prisoner tattoo the numbers on the incoming prisoners, not a job he wants to do, but he has no choice and while tattooing some newly arrived women at the camp, he sees Gita, and he is smitten. Both of them are from Slovakia.
Being a tattooist comes with a bit more freedom and the chance to get some extra rations, which Lale ends up sharing with fellow inmates. Lale is very industrious, and learns a bit about working the system, helping him and his friends to be able to survive longer. 
This was a book that was hard to put down, and gave me a slightly different perspective of what goes on in the camps, and who are imprisoned there (not all Jewish)
I would like to thank NetGalley and  Bonnier Publishing Australia for the ARC of this book.
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Everyone's talking about this book at the moment, and with good reason.

In 1942, when the Slovakian government demanded one adult child from every Jewish family to work for the German government, Lale Eisenberg put himself forward rather than let his older, married-with-children brother, sacrifice his family life. Before he really knew what's going on, he found himself transported to Poland by cattle-train, and rudely booted into his new working life at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Even in those first hours of his concentration camp nightmare, Lale made a promise to himself that he would live to leave the place as a free man.

Despite the dire circumstances, it could be said that the universe was looking after Lale, because in a short time he had been given a job (tattooist) that afforded him both privileges for himself and opportunities to help others in the camps, and he had fallen in love. The war rolled on, and Lale continued to live towards his goal.

If you didn't know that this story was based on the real-life, verified recollections of a Holocaust survivor, you might be forgiven for thinking it was a bit far-fetched. But Lale was a real person who worked with Heather Morris for years to bring this amazing story to light. I think the book is a true labour of love; it took Morris years to research and to write, and what she has delivered is a metaphorical love-letter to the life of her elderly Jewish friend and more of a literal love-letter from Lale to his beloved Gita, the young woman he fell in love with as he tattooed the number 34902 onto her arm. As a story of the Holocaust, it's what you would expect - bleak, violent and heart-wrenching, but as a story of humanity it is also hopeful and surprisingly uplifting.

With thanks to Echo Publishing and Netgalley for a free copy of this book to review.
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I have read a number of books about the Holocaust and continue to learn something new with each read. In this case, I learned about tattooists. I hadn’t really thought about the numbering/marking of prisoners until I read this book. I also assumed that German soldiers would have been tasked with this. However, from this story, I learned about Lale and other prisoners who were tasked with tattooing new arrivals at the concentration camps.

Lale’s story is deeply moving and memorable. I can’t even begin to explain the horrors that he and others witnessed and experienced at Auschwitz. I admired how he was able to do so much for his fellow prisoners despite his own confinement. Lale heroism wasn’t only in saving lives; it was also in the little things that he did like being gentle when tattooing the prisoners.

This is a story of strength, survival and perseverance in one of the most horrendous times in history. The setting is tough, heart-wrenching and most of the events that take place in the book are horrifying. However, in the midst of all this, there is a story of love and humanity triumphing over adversity. This is memorable a story and I am glad that I had the opportunity to read Lale and Gita’s story
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The Tattooist of Auschwitz reads like a fictional story set during the Holocaust, but what makes it remarkable is the fact that it is anything but formulated. 

Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, was given the task of tattooing identification numbers on others at the notorious concentration camp. There he meets Gita, another Slovakian, and he sets himself on a mission to escape with her to freedom by trading food and jewels,  revealing his incredible street smarts. 
If he had been caught, he would have been killed - many owed him their survival.

There are elements where you do think it has been written for the screen, as the scenes fail to connect to one another fluidly. As a result, I did believe it to be a fictional story because the writing failed to completely flourish and the author struggles with the prose. In this respect, it is rather disappointing, however, the memoir is wonderful and it leaves you with huge respect for the Sokolovs.
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There is something about books based on true stories that hit the reader harder than pure fiction. When that book is set in Auschwitz, when the book deals with the Holocaust in general--the horrors are more visceral than anything Stephen King can conjure. Amidst this dark moment in history, we get a love story. Knowing that these events actually happened with such a backdrop makes their love story even more powerful. 

Pick this book up when you have time to sit down and read or on a night when you are willing to pay the consequences of staying up reading because you will not be able to put it down. Also, have tissues handy.
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Lale is the person who tattoos the numbers on all the prisoners of Auschwitz and Birkenau. This gives him some advantages the other prisoners do not have. He has more freedom and more rations. He does his best to share with everyone. Lale is also a thief. He has to be to survive. Gita is another prisoner. She meets Lale when he tattoos her arm. This changes their lives forever.

When I read a holocaust book, it always brings forefront...Man's inhumanity to man. This book is no different. The starvation, the intelligence to survive, the pure meanness of the Nazis always amaze me. Lale and Gita have to be tough and smart to survive. And they did survive and find their way back to each other when the war ended.

However, for some reason, there is something missing in this novel. I think the character development could be so much better. I did not feel the connection to Lale and Gita as I should have. I also did not feel the connection BETWEEN Lale and Gita was very strong. But, this is still a good read with a strong love story throughout.

I received this novel from Netgalley for a honest review.
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Like most Holocaust stories, this is sad and disturbing but the stories have to be told. We will never forget what happened to these people.
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A ghost-written memoir of a life interrupted, of perseverance and endurance, of finding love and holding onto it through one of the worst cases of genocide recorded.

The story its self -being a true version of events as recalled by Lale - can't be judged. 

The portrayal of the story was rather dry and unemotional. Giving so little of the Lale and Gita's personalities - whether because Lale himself tended to keep his emotions private, or perhaps the ghost-writers style - was a risk, and not one worth taking. History has an awful tendency to repeat its self and the horrific events that took place in the concentration camps don't stand alone. Similar atrocities have and will occur again. So please bring your stories to life by exposing more of yourself in the characters. People respond to thoughts and emotions far more than facts alone. And more people need to read these stories so that the lives involved are counted and hopefully, desperately that these events are not repeated.
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I’ve read quite a bit about the Holocaust, but I believe this is the first time I have read about a romance in Auschwitz concentration camp.  The camp is full of hunger, despair and fear -- not really the atmosphere that encourages amorous thoughts.  Most prisoners were consumed with the need to survive.  However, love is a powerful motivator for the will to survive.

Lale Sokolov, a young man from Slovakia, was sent to Auschwitz to work.  Fluent in several languages and possessing a charisma that others found appealing, Lale soon unwittingly lands the job of tattooing numbers onto the incoming prisoners.  The freedom to move about the camp, extra rations and a better place to sleep set Lale apart from the other prisoners.

Lale realizes the need to help others and soon uses his perks to get extra food and medicine to his fellow prisoners.  In doing so, he soon meets Gita, the girl who will become the love of his life.

Lale’s  bravery during his time in the camp and immediately following the liberation is impressive.  Also, the fact that both he and Gita survived until the liberation is a bit of a miracle.  Both had brushes with death that they survived due to the kindness of others.

This story is based on the life of real people, their pictures added at the end of the book, along with a brief update on their lives following the war.  

Many thanks to NetGalley, Bonnier Publishing Australia/Echo for providing me with an advance copy.
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it seems wrong to love a book based on such a harrowing story based on true life. but whilst I loved the book its also a stark reminder of the awful atrocities of the concentration camps.  beautifully told and I couldn't wait to read the book from cover to cover.  recommending it you anyone I talk to.
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The Tattooist of Auschwitz
by Heather Morris
Synopsis
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival - literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims' arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival.

There have been many books about the Holocaust - and there will be many more. What makes this one so memorable is Lale Sokolov's incredible zest for life. He understood exactly what was in store for him and his fellow prisoners, and he was determined to survive - not just to survive but to leave the camp with his dignity and integrity intact, to live his life to the full. Terrible though this story is, it is also a story of hope and of courage. It is also - almost unbelievably - a love story. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale - a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer - it was love at first sight, and he determined not only to survive himself but to ensure that Gita did, too. His story - their story - will make you weep, but you will also find it uplifting. It shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.

Review
Heather Morris is a New Zealand author living in Australia, who met Lale Sokolov in 2003. The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a compelling and unforgettable story of hope and courage that is written based on interviews with Holocaust Survivor Auschwitz-Birkenau Tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov.

"Save the one, save the world."
This was Lal's mantra,

Being Auschwitz's Tatowierer, allowed more freedom than his fellow prisoners, he had his own room, was given increased food rations, which he shared with his fellow prisoners. Yet he was also known as a Nazi collaborator, because of his position as tatowierer.

I'm drawn to reading stories of survival and Lale’s is one of the most inspiring I've ever read. Its a story of survival,courage and dignity and love.
Highly recommended.
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This is a poignant yet heartwarming true story of Lale (Ludwig Eisenberg), a Holocaust survivor and the tattooist of Auschwitz, who found love and hope amid the appalling atrocities on Jews in World War II. 

I read many memoirs and biographies of Holocaust survivors and each one of them holds a special place in my heart. Their fighting spirit despite the cruelty in Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau camps never cease to amaze me. While many of the stories I read were narrated from prisoners' POV, this is slightly different as it was told from the POV of Auschwitz's tattooist.

Lale Eisenberg (who later changed his name to Lale Solokov) a Slovakian Jew was transported to Auschwitz in 1942, was assigned as the assistant to the tattooist Pepan. His job was to tattoo numbers on prisoners' arms and one day when he tattooed prisoner #34902, it was love at first sight with her, Gita (Gisela Furman). Later, Pepan was taken away, and Lale became the Tatowierer. This position came with its benefits and privileges, although he was still living in constant fear of his life. 

Lale's thoughts about his Tatowierer position: "I have been given the choice of participating in the destruction of our people, and I have chosen to do so in order to survive. I can only hope I am not one day judged as a perpetrator or collaborator."

The courtship between Lale and Gita was so sweet. They wrote little notes to each other, met in secret and enjoyed every minute they spent together. Time was so precious to them. They made it work no matter how trying those times were. Love is indeed patient. 

The storytelling part was pretty good although it needed some refinement. Some sections felt disconnected but it did not alter the flow of the story in a major way. They were like little bumps on the roads, once you get passed them, it's smooth driving again. 

Characters were quite well-developed. I could connect with both the main and side characters of this story. Each has their own stories and played an integral role in Lale's life. I like Lale's character. He was a humble, honest, helpful and resourceful man. Although his Tatowierer position means he was given more food rations, he did not forget his friends at the old block. He brought them food and helped them as much as he can.

Since this book was written from a tattooist POV and his position allowed him to move more freely around the camps, you will read less about the atrocities compared to other books which were written from the prisoners' POV. Please do not get me wrong. Lale was still a prisoner and his life was still at the mercy of these cold-hearted Nazis. He witnessed death all the time. People died from diseases, shot by Nazis, malnutrition, starvation, gassed, beaten to death, experimented on by Dr. Mengele, inclement cold weather, suicides through the electric fence, etc. The difference was that Lale was able to leverage his position for better access to medicine, things (e.g: chocolates, sausages) and to help his friends.

Language used is generally clean but there were the occasional use of profane words ("F" & "S" words). 

My only complaint was the ending. I felt it ended too abruptly. I wish there were more story written about that part, slowly transitioning readers to the ending of Lale and Gita's remarkable story. I however, do appreciate the epilogue and author's note at the end of the book. They certainly provided a better insight into the main characters' lives and the reason for this book.

In a nutshell, this is an engaging read which left me teary-eyed with a gamut of roller-coaster emotions from sad to joy. If you have not read any Holocaust memoirs/biographies before, this would be a good book to start with. A must read! 

*** Sincere gratitude to NetGalley and the publisher for a free ecopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.***
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The setting for The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris, has the absolute bleakest, darkest and yet, memorable setting of all the books I have ever read! There are no rose coloured glasses on Morris' descriptions of either the physical conditions or the treatments  encountered at Auschwitz. Morris was reportedly told this tale first hand by the main character in the novel, when she was his geriatric nurse. There is no reason that he wouldn't have been telling her the truth, and explains why so many concentration camp survivors have never spoken of their experiences. Auschwitz truly was an evil place.

Despite this shocking setting Morris regales us with a story of true love. One day the tattooist looked up from his assigned work of tattooing new prisoners, and fell in love with the woman whose arm he was inking. Their love story takes us through the misery and horror of life in Auschwitz and gives voice to the many horrendous scenes they witnessed first hand. Fortunately, both the tattooist and his true love lived to be liberated by the Russians and, through a serious of misadventures, manage to reunite on the outside. 

Brace yourself for this recommended read!
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Taking into consideration that this is an eyewitness narrative, which I find preferable when it comes to Holocaust themed books, and an important historical account, I do wonder if Lale Solokov subconsciously or inadvertently romanticized the more uplifting parts of his story.

Memory is a tricky thing at the best of times, recalling memories made under extreme duress and/or trauma can sometimes interfere with the way we interpret memories.

I believe he made life seem simpler and less traumatic than it was. His relationship and encounters with Gita read like a complicated romance novel, and because of that some of the scenarios seem improbable.

When he or rather the author, relates the more brutal and heinous events there seems to be a reluctance to be cruel and honest. There is no such thing as gratuitous when it comes to laying bare the crimes of the Holocaust.

Again I am not sure whether that was Lale or the author changing the narrative just slightly to make the romance pop more or if it was just easier to focus on a more pleasant scenario. To remember the positive of meeting her instead of the negative of fearing she would die.

Like many survivors, Lale sat on his story for many decades. It wasn’t until Gita died that he decided the world needed to know his story. I can imagine he felt terrible survivor’s guilt and guilt in general for perhaps feeling like he contributed to the demise of many victims. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to see the physical proof of his personal trauma on real people. Being responsible for marking his fellow humans like cattle.To him it would have been irrelevant that he had no choice. Survival is an instinct, and I am glad a lot of survivors lived to tell the world about the heinous crimes of the Holocaust.

As I said before, the stories of survivors need to be told, without them there is more chance we will repeat the past. Morris does that in a sensitive way, and she brings a little lightness to a very dark story.
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Where to start a review is something I’m not often faced with. To fall in love with a character and to feel every emotion they are feeling makes this story very hard to read in places. 
As a young nurse I feel highly honoured to have cared for a polish survivor I only remember as “Victor”.  I can still vividly see his tattoo and the scars he bore from the experiments of the Drs in the camp. I remember his love for his wife and his smile when he was flirting with us nurses. I now understand more of how it must’ve be for him and  This story is one I wished I had read at school. to help me to have had some understanding about the lives they had to live inside the camp. I say lives but it was pure existence. Out of there though came the live that Lale and Gita had for each other and proof that love does always fine a way.
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EXCERPT: Thirsty and exhausted, he is surprised when the piece of paper is yanked from his hand. An SS officer pulls off Lale's jacket, rips his shirtsleeve and pushes his left forearm flat on the table. He stares in disbelief as the numbers 32407 are stabbed into his skin, one after the other by the prisoner. The length of wood with a needle embedded in it moves quickly and painfully. Then the man takes a rag dipped in green ink and rubs it roughly over Lale's wound. 

The tattooing has taken only seconds, but Lale's shock makes time stand still. He grasps his arm, staring at the number. How can someone do this to another human being? He wonders if for the rest of his life, be it short or long, he will be defined by this moment, this irregular number: 32407.

THE BLURB: The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival - literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims' arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival.

There have been many books about the Holocaust - and there will be many more. What makes this one so memorable is Lale Sokolov's incredible zest for life. He understood exactly what was in store for him and his fellow prisoners, and he was determined to survive - not just to survive but to leave the camp with his dignity and integrity intact, to live his life to the full. Terrible though this story is, it is also a story of hope and of courage. It is also - almost unbelievably - a love story. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale - a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer - it was love at first sight, and he determined not only to survive himself but to ensure that Gita did, too. His story - their story - will make you weep, but you will also find it uplifting. It shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.

Like many survivors, Lale and Gita told few people their story after the war. They eventually made their way to Australia, where they raised a son and had a successful life. But when Gita died, Lale felt he could no longer carry the burden of their past alone. He chose to tell his story. (Publisher's Summary)

MY THOUGHTS: Oh! The inhumanity of human beings towards other human beings knows no bounds. And, worst of all, I don't believe we have learned a damned thing because we just keep making the same mistakes over and over again, and always with a sense of righteous justification. 

Lale and Gita's story is indescribable. But it is important that it be told. We can read these stories, and be horrified, appalled, but we can never really know, in our hearts or our heads, how it felt to endure what they endured. We cannot even begin to understand what they went through, and for that we shall be grateful. Grateful that we shall never have to experience standing outside with the ashes of our friends raining down upon us from Crematorium chimneys. Grateful that we are not ripped from our families, herded like cattle, starved, beaten, and experimented upon like laboratory rats. And let us show our gratitude by ensuring that anything like this can never happen again, be it on the massive scale seen in WWII, or on a personal level. Please be kind to one another, help one another, respect one another. Because if we don't, are we any better than the SS?

Thank you to author Heather Morris for her perseverance. A lot of what she was told by Lale cannot have been easy to listen to or transcribe. I would imagine she had more than a few nightmares. 

Thank you to Bonnier Publishing, Australia via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions. 

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the 'about' page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. 

This review and others are also published on my blog sandysbookaday.wordpress.com
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Books about the Holocaust are never easy reading and this one is heartbreaking but also uplifting.  Lale and Gita’s story is a powerful reminder of how the human spirit can overcome even the most desperate and seemingly impossible situations. 
I’ve seen some negative reviews of this book and some very unkind comments about Lale. All I can say is that unless you have walked in his shoes or any of the other survivors then you cannot judge him or what he and countless others did to survive. 
My thanks to Netgalley for this copy.
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After visiting Anne Frank House and studying genocide this summer, I made a resolution to read more books about the Holocaust. Usually, I find sad accounts like these hard to get into, but this book did not disappoint. It was surprisingly enjoyable and easy to fall into, despite the fact that I was horrified every step of the way by the atrocities Lale and Gita saw every day. This book amazed me with its unique perspective on “life” in a concentration camp and details about Auschwitz it shared that only a survivor could know about (I won’t spoil anything because everyone should read this). I’m so grateful that Lale and his family agreed to share his experiences as a Holocaust survivor in this book— It’s perhaps more important now than ever to keep these stories alive, especially as many survivors have passed away. 

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.
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