Heather Morris interviewed Lale Solokov for years about his experiences during the Second World War. He arrived in Auschwitz in 1942. This book is a retelling of his experiences. Historical fiction but of course non-fiction as well. Read my review below.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz. When Lale, given the job of tattooing the prisoners, saw Gita waiting in line, it was love at first sight. In that moment he determined to keep them both alive. This is a story of hope and of courage.
For readers of Schindler’s List, The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas comes a heart-breaking story of the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances. I tattooed a number on her arm. She tattooed her name on my heart. In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
His job was tattooing the prisoners marked for survival. Scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. 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.
So begins one of the most life-affirming, courageous, unforgettable and human stories of the Holocaust: the love story of the tattooist of Auschwitz.
My first impression
Very sad, very well written. It is bizarre to realize what people had and have to endure in life. It must not have been easy to talk about his experiences. I can’t put this book down, even though it’s very sad.
Lale volunteered to be taken away from his home in Slovakia in order to save his family. His destination was unknown. He arrived at Auschwitz in 1942 and managed to survive all his years there. He got a job as a tattooist, numbering the arriving people. Due to his extensive language skills. This job kept him relatively safe. He traded jewels from Canada* for food and other “luxury” products with two Polish men who worked at Auschwitz.
He shared his extra food with the girl he loved and met at Auschwitz: Gita. But he also gave his food to a variety of people at the camp. His generosity ends up saving his life.
The story is about the determination to survive, humanity in a place where humanity seems lost, tragedy and horror.
*the place where the belongings of the people sent to Auschwitz were sorted.
This book really makes you feel a lot of emotions. I read many books about the Holocaust, fiction and non-fiction, but you can never get used to reading about it. There will always be grief, sadness and shock. Although Heather Morris’s writing itself is not great, it is good enough. It is important that these testimonies are available and known to the public.
The conclusion of The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Lale Solokov’s story is an unlikely one. He survived hell on earth. The book isn’t an easy read, but his life wasn’t either. I recommend reading this book. However, bear in mind that not all facts presented in this book are precisely historically accurate.