The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 11 Feb 2018

Member Reviews

I absolutely could not stop reading this book once I started.  The anticipation of reading the next chapter and the next, was greater than it has been with this book.   I have finished and can not stop thinking about, and discussing this book with just about everyone. I have  been, and will continue to recommend this book to everyone I know, I can honestly say I have never thought about where the prisoners acquired  the identifying tattoos and I have read a lot of books regarding The Holocaust.  This true story was inspiring, insightful and such a powerful story. I have been researching Lale and Gita and will continue to, as I am so humbled and inspiried by their lives. What amazes me most is the continuous concern the prisoners had for one another. Although they were all in the darkest days of their lives; they still looked out for one another. Such love and selflessness! I feel the author conveyed exactly what Lale and Gita would have wanted, while getting the story across to us. The story flows effortlessly and I got a real sense of what each character was like. I highly recommend this book and will look for other untold stories by this author.
Was this review helpful?
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Holocaust fiction books in the English language alone. This is not the one to read.

This kind of book is hard to rate. It's based on the true story of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew who volunteered to go to Auschwitz to save his older brother and hrough a combination of true grit and luck, he's able to survive and even fall in love. Who wants to give the story of a Holocaust survivor just two stars? Isn't that a bit heartless?

But it's not subject of the book I'm rating. This book isn't well written. I wasn't surprised to learn that Heather Morris is a screenwriter, because she relies heavily on dialogue here and really struggles with prose (although, to be honest, the dialog leaves a lot to be desired, as well). Scenes change in the matter of a sentence, the dialogue often seems only broken with stage directions. There's no atmospheric build up. There's no sense of tension or urgency or terror. It was all very one-note. The characters, even Lale himself, are flat and poorly developed. The whole book felt very amateurish, and I cannot recommend it.

I received an advance copy of this book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.
Was this review helpful?
Having read numerous stories of the Holocaust over my lifetime, I had taken a break for the past year or so; however, with Holocaust Remembrance Day and the description of this book, I decided it was time to explore once more a devastating and eternally shocking time in our recent history. Based on a true story, Heather Morris takes the story of Lale and Gita and turns it in an inspiring and hopeful story in the midst of unimaginable human suffering. The story begins with Lale, a young Slovakian man who has chosen to be the healthy Jewish male to be sent to from his family to 'work' for the Germans, arriving at Auschwitz in 1942. Quickly, Lale is trained to be the tattooist, earning extra rations and a room of his own. Torn by his seeming complicity with the SS, Lale becomes a savior to many other prisoners, displaying the Talmudic proverb that he who saves one, saves the world. In the midst of this horrible time, he meets Gita and falls in love. This is a remarkable tale of young love in the most deadly time. The beauty of this book is the ability to provide hope and inspiration through these two characters, as well as the friends they make in the camp. After reading voraciously for two days, I closed the final page not with tears, but with great hope for humanity and our ability to care for others through the darkest time.
Was this review helpful?
Lale and Gita Sokolov didn't tell their story to a lot of people after the war ended but when Gita died, Lale decided it was time to do so. And for 3 years, Heather Morris was there to listen which resulted in this incredible book.

We follow Lale, a Slovakian Jew, since his travel to the camp in terrible conditions. Even so, he always tries to stay positive and bring that positivity to the others. Shortly after his arrival, he's offered a job as the Tätowierer, the Tattooist, who marks the prisoners who are to enter the camp. With this job, he receives more food and better accommodations but he never forgets the other prisoners and would share his rations with them everytime he could.

One day he meets Gita as she's in line to be tattooed and is immediately drawn to her. They start meeting with each other and fall in love. He would always promise her that they would survive these horrors and walk out of there as free people someday. 

With the help of the girls who worked in the Canada building (the place where they kept the prisoners' possessions), he would get money and jewels and exchange them for food and medicine in order to help as many prisoners as he could.  He was so brave and many people survived thanks to him. I'm so glad this book exists and I hope a lot of people read it. Never forget. 

"Save the one, save the world."
Was this review helpful?
This novel, based on a true story, is an astonishing tale of life in the German concentration camps. But for the references to the actual people involved, I would say it was too fantastical. But, the writing reads like a screenplay, rather than a novel. Lots of dialogue in a place where everyone was scared to speak and sentences that read like stage directions. Along the lines of:  A German SS guard entered the room.
Was this review helpful?
”Based on an incredible true story” as this states on the cover, this is the story of Lale Sokolov and Gita, the woman who he meets at Auschwitz, both prisoners there. At first Lale is working on a roof, and this is what he does for a while until his kapo says he needs a boy to do his bidding, run errands, bring him food and the like. Then fate intervenes somewhat again for Lale when he becomes the tattooist, the Tätowierer for both Auschwitz and Birkenau, a position under the Political Wing that answers only to Berlin.

He meets Gita, whom he only knows by the number he tattooed to her arm, no words exchanged of course. A slip of paper with the number that was to be permanently marked on her skin were the only words that accompanied her. Eventually, he manages to introduce himself through channels and messages passed. Eventually an infatuation turns to love.

”Choosing to live is an act of defiance, a form of heroism.”

But love is not the only emotion he feels there, having to stand by as the likes of Mengele get pleasure from inflicting terror and humiliation on all, but especially the female prisoners. Impotent rage, horror, fear, sympathy and an overwhelming sense of powerlessness engulf him, not only for him, but for all those prisoners subjected to the torture, abuse, humiliation.

”The twinkling of stars overhead is no longer a comfort. They merely remind him of the chasm between what life can be and what it is now.”

I’ve never been to Auschwitz or Birkenau, but many years ago I went to Dachau when I was in Munich on business. A group of us went there together, even the memory it still makes it hard for me to breathe. Photographs of the conditions, of how it appeared for those who were held captive – not so much living, but barely existing there. Each had their own stories, but we don’t often have access to an account such as this one, which makes it all the more important. That these people are more than just numbers to be totaled, they are people who loved, who were loved and had hopes and dreams.

My deepest respect goes to the author for having the compassion and emotional stamina to hear these stories directly from Lale Sokolov, and bring these stories to us in such a truly lovely ode to love and the will to survive. Lale’s story broke my heart into a hundred pieces and then you somehow managed to put it back together again in this poignant story of the saving grace of a love found even in the darkest of times.

Pub Date: 01 Feb 2018

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Bonnier Publishing Australia / Echo
Was this review helpful?
4 Stars

Lale Sokolov was taken to Auschwitz via cattle car.  While being transported, he made a decision to survive.  Almost immediately, Lale was made the “Tatowierer” - the Tattooist of Auschwitz - he tattooed the numbers on prisoners that came into both Auschwitz and Birkenau and he saw the haunted looks on everyone’s faces.  He learned to be quick, efficient, and look down.  One woman haunted him and he memorized her number and he waited.

For Lale, being the Tatowierer had its perks.  He got his own room, was given increased food rations (which he shared with his friends) and he had more freedom than most.  Yet he was also known as a Nazi collaborator.  Lale however, wanted to do more - he wanted to help people.  He made began making trades - obtaining money and jewelry from camp workers in exchange for food and medicine, which were smuggled in from the outside world.  Lale made dangerous, reckless decisions.  Putting himself and others in serious jeopardy.  One day, Lale met her.  The woman whose eyes haunted him, whose number he memorized:  Gita.  They embarked on a forbidden romance.  And he took more risks - for her. 

“The Tattooist of Auschwitz” is harrowing novel.  It is chilling at times, yet it has heart.  Lale was beloved.  He was also incredibly brave and strong - in more ways than one.  “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” is based on a true story.  Though it is a novel about life in the concentration camps during WWII, it is the love story Lale and Gita and one man’s willingness to survive when such a thing seems impossible. 

This was a Traveling Sister Read.  It included:  Brenda, Norma, Lindsay, Diane, Jennifer, Marialyce, Mary Beth and Holly.

Thank you to NetGalley, Bonnier Publishing Australia, Echo and Heather Morris for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Published on NetGalley, Goodreads, and Twitter on 1.28.18.
*Will be published on Amazon on 2.1.18.
Was this review helpful?
What an incredible story.....I still find it hard to comprehend mans inhumanity to man during the Holocaust, but hope shines through in this book. Lake becomes the tattooist at the concentration camp due to his linguistic skills. There he sees Gita, and falls in love, despite the terrible circumstances. The book takes you through their fear, witnessing the horror that that see. It does not dwell too much of the death and torture which is a good thing but the reader is still aware of the upmost danger they are in, at all times. The sightings of Josef Mengele are spine chilling though. A really good book that draws you in and is very hard to put down. I would highly recommend this.
Was this review helpful?
Reviewing a novel about the Holocaust on Holocaust Remembrance day seems both apropos, and a great responsibility. Never forget! As long as there are people who need to tell! Their stories, I will continue to read and remember. This is a fictionalized account of a true story, told to the author in the final days of his life. Lale was a young Jewish man from Slovakia, with much to look forward to, when in an effort to save the rest of his family, he is taken to Auschwitz. There he will become the tattooist, the man who tattoos those horrendous numbers on the prisoners arms. A prestigious job in the camp that gives him priviledges many don't have, also a certain freedom. How he uses this freedom is a big part of the story. A story with many horrors terrors and yes even love.

I dislike rating these stories. I always feel like I am rating, in this case, a man's life, passing judgement on his horrifying experiences. They were, but this young man was fortunate, not a good word to use obviously, in many instances that found others either shot or beaten to death. He had a sunny personality and vowed to survive the camp, maybe the reason the tone of this was more light than many others of the camps that I have read. Maybe this is the story he needed to remember to survive, only he can know that. The writing is less emotional than some, a kind of storytelling tone, which I guess makes sense as the author was telling a story. For me though, often times, I felt an emotional disconnect. It is though, impossible not to like Lale, he indeed uses his position, well.  We meet other important characters, the young woman who he would come to love, her friends. Some of the guards, and all play their parts in this story.

I do love how at the end of the book the author let's the reader know what happened to some of the main people in this novel. One young women's fate I found particularly unfair. At the end their is an added bonus and it is here that I felt all the emotions I had been missing. Never forget!!!

ARC from Netgalley.
Was this review helpful?
When I saw this novel as a “Read Now” on NetGalley I knew I wanted it to be my first NetGalley review. Especially since today (January 27th) marks the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Based on the true story of Holocaust survivor Lale Sokolov’s, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a hauntingly beautiful love story. Morris was able to capture a side of the Holocaust that is not taught in schools. To read a real account of the politics and caste systems implemented in Auschwitz-Birkenau opened my eyes. Being the Tätowierer made Lale untouchable. He was allowed a private room in a block and got extra rations – which he would smuggle out to those who needed it more. As long as, he had his tattooing sack, he could go almost anywhere without question.

The best part of the novel was how Morris stuck with only telling us what Lale saw and experienced. When Mengele, the Angel of Death, was introduced into the novel my heart trembled for the worst. However, since Lale never knew what Mengele was doing being closed doors, all we learned was about how uncomfortable Lale felt around him. This also was a downside to the novel, since as soon as someone disappeared or was no longer in Lale's life, we had no way of knowing if they were safe or not.

Overall, I gave The Tattooist of Auschwitz a 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. I am thankfully the stars aligned and allowed Morris to meet Sokolov in Australia. Also, I am grateful that Sokolov chose to share his story, one that desperately needed to be told. The Tattooist of Auschwitz should be read by anyone that is old enough to comprehend the atrocity that was the Holocaust. Compared to other Holocaust stories I have read and listened too, this one was nowhere near as graphic. I do believe this is suitable for anyone 12 and over and would be acceptable in a classroom setting.
Was this review helpful?
Wow, wow, wow...What a book!!! I've read many books about WWII and specifically about concentration camps. Starting this book, I knew what to expect: heartbreak, pain, sorrow, horrors, inability to understand how something like that can happen and how someone is able to survive. In a sense, I was dreading reading this book because I wasn't in the "mood" for such heavy subject. But boy, I am glad I did. Despite it's very heavy and painful subject, the book was not heave. From the very beginning it was full of hope and optimism, and not false hope either. Lale's personality and his ability to survive despite all odds being stacked against him, made me fall in love with him from the very first page. He never lost his humanity or the desire to help others, even when he thought he is as good as gone himself. His love for Gita was so strong, from the moment he saw her for the very first time. This is the type of love all of us can only dream about. 
This book is FANTASTIC!!!

Review is posted on Goodreads:
Was this review helpful?
I'll never hear Yiddish again....

I’m gutted reading this book. I had a family member who was a Holocaust survivor and this book hit close to home. There are not many survivors left in the world which is why I am glad that books like this exist.

"To Save one is to save the world."

This book is based on a true story. I always love books based on true stories. In many ways, I think they are the best kind. I also love the pictures of Lane and Gita Sokolov. Lane told his story over the course of three years to the Author. Lane became the Tatowierer "Tattooist" of Auschwitz and Birkenau. Being the tattooist gives him special perks - more rations, better sleeping conditions, ability to move around the camp more freely. He also was able to exchange the money and prized possessions of those who died in the gas chambers for food and medicine. He was generous and provided for many. He saved lives and I wonder how many survived due to him acquiring medicine and extra food for them. 

While giving a tattoo, he meets Gita and feels an instant attraction to her. This book is not only a book about survival during the bleakest of times, it is about triumph of the human spirit, about being pushed to the breaking point but never breaking, about love, about compassion for others, about hope, about losing your faith and about never losing your faith. It also shows brutality, hatred, and evil but what I hope people take away is the compassion, strength, dignity and resilience that Lane and so many others named in this book showed. This book is about a lot of things but mainly one man's inner strength which allowed him to go on, to never give up, to have compassion for others, who risked his life many times to help others. During the darkest times, there will always be those who shine and Lane Sokolov was one of those.

Like many survivors, Lane and Gita moved around until they found their place in Australia, began a family and lead a happy and successful life. Lane proved to have "nine lives" and I was happy to see that he was able to prosper and be reconnected with Gita after the war. 

I thought this book was well written and I was sucked me into Lane's world. Although there are scenes of violence and murder/killings, they are not incredibly graphic. With any book dealing with the Holocaust, you know it is going to be sad and scenes are going pull at your heartstrings. This one will as well. I think most will really enjoy this book and hopefully learn a few things. For instance, I always thought the tattoos were put on using crude tattoo machines/guns similar to the one used when I got a tattoo. I was wrong. My family member talked about it. I wonder did Lane give Ma her tattoo? Who knows.?

I think reading the Author's note at the end of the book is beneficial. Again, there are pictures of Lane and Gita there. It was nice to put faces with the names. When reading books such as this, I think most readers will wonder, could they have survived. I believe most of us will never know what we are capable of until we are placed to the test. God willing, none of us are ever placed to this test.

4.5 stars

I received a copy of this book from Bonner Publishing Australia and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I’m an emotional coward with regards to my reading or, is it just I’m a coward? Whatever the reason I tend to avoid books that I know will upset me. The boy in the striped pyjamas will forever be just that; just a boy and never a book I’ll read; or a movie I’ll ever watch. However another book, ‘I am David’, is my favourite book of all time. It’s also about a boy, a boy in a  war torn world. A boy with a happy ending.

So why did I pick this up? I think it held echoes of another favourite of mine, a book with a girl called Lara. (Dr Zhivago). And that’s what I feel is part of this book’s magic. It weaves wisps from the past into something unique, something wonderful, something memorable. This isn’t a quick read. This isn’t a book you’ll fly through only to relegate to the mists of time. This is a book that will linger because it holds both dreams and tragedy within its pages. A book better than the sum of its parts because at its centre are the horrors that we can’t bear to think about and yet we must if we’re ever to grow as a society. Magnificent
Was this review helpful?
I was at first reluctant to read The Tattooist of Auschwitz as I recently discovered my maternal grandmother died in a concentration camp. I am glad I did because this is such a beautifully told story with little detail spared of the suffering while also illustrating one couple's determination and strength to survive the horrors.

At a time in history when there are people saying that the Holocaust was a hoax, I urge readers to press this book into their hands.  Heather Morris has achieved writing a memoir using a novelist's skill and she should be highly commended for doing it so well. This stands alongside another wonderful novel 'Schindler's List' also written by an Australian. resident.
Was this review helpful?
From page one of this book, I was hooked by this true story account of Lale and his journey through the hell that was Auschwitz.  We are introduced to Lale as he is on the train heading to an unknown destination.  Although I knew that where Lale was heading was an awful place, I was gripped by his story as though everything was new.  I traveled with him as he got his tattoo, shower, and ended up with a Russian uniform.  He eventually ends up in a barracks where a late night trip to the bathroom teaches him, and me, about the brutal world that he was now inhabiting.

As the story progressed, I got a picture of the building of Auschwitz and as Lale starts his new career as the tattooist of Auschwitz.  I have read many books about the Holocaust and the awful fate of many people during this time period.  This was the first time that I stopped to think about the person who put all of those numbers on the arms of the many victims and survivors.  I cheered when Lale was distracted by a pair of beautiful eyes belonging to Gita.  Their story was so sweet and at the same time, so unbelievable.  To think that Lale put the number on the woman who would become the love of his life is really remarkable.

I can't say enough good things about this book and the impression it left on me.  I stayed up until the early hours of the morning to continue reading about Lale, Gita and their fate.  This is one of those books that stays with you and I was so glad to be on the journey.
Was this review helpful?
Very emotional and unforgiving read. This is based on real life experiences which make it that much harder to comprehend that the things that happen in this story are not merely a work of fiction but a retelling of what people have actually had to endure.
Was this review helpful?
A heartbreaking yet uplifting tale of love and hope, set against the grim backdrop of Auschwitz.

Very few books make me cry, but I'll freely admit I was snivelling away at much of this. Before I started reading it, I was wondering what the author would bring to a subject that had been covered a lot in other great books, such as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas or Schindler's Ark; the answer is - an unflagging, poignant sense of hope that makes this true story all the more remarkable. 

It's about Lale, a Slovakian who is sent by his family (in accordance with the Nazi law) to Auschwitz. Right from the start, it's clear that he's a young man who is determined to put a brave face on things, even when people around him are suffering and in despair. 

When he reaches Auschwitz, he's transferred to Birkenau, where he swiftly realises the bleakness of his situation. Through painfully concise descriptions, we learn about the lack of food, the volatile nature of the guards (who Lale witnesses shooting men on the toilet on his first night), and the grim sleeping conditions - which raises the question; how can anyone survive in these conditions?

Yet somehow, Lale does. He becomes the tattooist for the Nazis, placing the numbers of the arms of the newly arrived prisoners. Then he meets Gita for the first time, a girl with dark eyes who immediately steals his heart.

This book is a tale of their love, set against the almost impossibly awful conditions in the concentration camp. But it's about more than that. It's about the bravery of their friends, who risked so much to help Lale and Gita; both when they were ill, and when Lale got caught smuggling contraband goods. It's also about the mentality of the Nazis around them; from the chilling Doktor Mengale (who selected the people to be gassed, among other atrocities) to the guard who oversees Lale's work, who inadvertently ends up having a sort of uneasy friendship. 

So, as you can probably already tell - I loved this book to bits and couldn't stop reading it. Admittedly, it's a moving subject matter anyway, but it's handled with such respect and warmth that it makes it all the more poignant. I got the strong feeling that the author (who interviewed Lale as an old man), really admired him, because it comes through in every heartfelt word. 

I really can't criticise anything about this book at all, and it feels especially significant at the moment, given that we've got such hostility in the world at present. It's a wonderful celebration of never losing hope, and always acting with love and positivity as your motivation. Read it. Read it now!
Was this review helpful?
Thank you, NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Based the lives of Lale and Gita Sokolov, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a book that I couldn't put down. 

Arriving in Auschwitz in 1942, Lale is willing to take risks to save as many people as possible, to give them hope that they will make it out of there alive. Lale was a hero among many of the people at that camp by bringing them extra food. And despite all the horror surrounding him, he found the love of his life. 

This is a story I'm grateful to have read. Lale's story is one that should be heard. He was brave and spirited. I'm thankful that he was willing to share his story for the world to know.
Was this review helpful?
When I was about 10, my mother started working in a library. I used to go there after school, spending time roaming around and reading whatever caught my fancy, until she finished work. I was a child who loved reading and that, combined with an insatiable curiosity, drew me to many different varieties of book.  I read lots of non-fiction and this is where my fascination for WWII history and the Holocaust in particular really began. Those pictures of the emaciated people with their vacant eyes, the stories of experiments on children in the concentration camps, the stories of everyday people who triumphed over the horrors of their situation, deeply touched me.

It was all of that which drew me to read this particular book. I had never read a book about one of the tattooists at Auschwitz before but those numbers on people's arms, a permanent reminder of their ordeal, left quite the impression on me when I first became aware of them. 

This was a truly fascinating, horrific and yet beautiful story of love and war, and how the human spirit can endure and overcome so much. Lale Solokov was clearly an amazing human being with a deep love for Gita and a strong will to survive. He did what he had to do - I don't suppose any of us can possibly know what he went through, unless we found ourselves in the same situation that he did? As well as his own intelligence and resourcefulness, it seems to me that he had a lot of luck on his side as well. So many instances of "right place, right time", too. 

All in all, this book does not make for easy reading, but the author has done an amazing job of giving us a story with a different perspective that was unknown to me. It would have been incredible to have met this man and no doubt very emotional as well, hearing his account of his time in Auschwitz. 

5 stars, of course. Highly recommended read. 

Thank you to Bonnier Publishing Australia and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.
Was this review helpful?
This is the powerful and emotional story of young love in Auschwitz.  Lale ends up in Auschwitz after volunteering to go to a work camp to save his family.   He is given the job of tattooer, to tattoo an identifying number on the prisoners' arms after they arrive.  With the arrival of some females, Lale locks eyes with Gita as he tattoos her arm  and it was love at first sight.  This is their story of resolve, inner strength, love and survival.   What a great read!
Was this review helpful?