Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

The Tattooist of AuschwitzTitle: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Author: Heather Morris

Pages: 288 Pages

Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre

The Blurb

Based on the incredible true story of Lale Sokolov 

Heart-breaking  – a tale of love and survival amidst the horrors of Auschwitz

Human – the real story behind one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust – the blue numbers tattooed on prisoners’ arms

Inspirational – the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances

Unforgettable – a story untold for over seventy years is finally shared

Life-affirming – one man’s determination to survive and live a full life with the woman he loved

Fully verified – Lale Sokolov’s background and story has been fact-checked against all available documentary evidence

The Story

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.

The Review

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. Some books have the ability to take your breath away. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris is one such book.

It is the story of Lale Sokolov: a young Slovakian man who survived the horrors of Auschwitz. Books with an Auschwitz setting are invariably horrific and harrowing. It is even worse when it is a true story.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz reads like a movie, every detail is crisp in your mind and you do feel transported to the same time and place. And even with prior knowledge of the Holocaust, nothing can prepare you for the verisimilitude presented in this account. What is beautiful is that even through all the horrors there is still hope. The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a beautiful read.

It may sound dramatic but it is an honour to read such a story.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is the first book I read in 2018 and I can assure you that it will take some beating as the book of the year for me.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris is available.

For more information regarding Heather Morris please visit her website

For more information regarding Bonnier Zaffre (@BonnierZaffre) please visit their Twitter page.

5 Stars

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