** My thanks to the publisher for an advance copy, received via Netgalley **
Author : Heather Morris
Title : The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Pages : 288
Publisher : Bonnier Zaffre
Publication date : January 11, 2018
I tattooed a number on her arm. She tattooed her name on my heart.
In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was given the job of 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. And he was determined not only to survive himself, but to ensure this woman, Gita, did, too.
So begins one of the most life-affirming, courageous, unforgettable and human stories of the Holocaust: the love story of the tattooist of Auschwitz.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov. In April 1942, Lale finds himself on a train being transported from his hometown in Slovakia because the Germans needed men to work for them. Lale wasn’t supposed to be on this train. His older brother should have been. But Lale sacrificed himself as his brother was married and had children.
What Lale doesn’t know, is that his final destination will be the concentration camp of Auschwitz. It’s incredibly confronting to think of Lale in his suit and tie, completely oblivious, while the reader knows perfectly well where he’s heading. But even when Lale arrives at his destination, he holds his head up high, is kind, positive and determined to survive. Especially when he meets Gita, the love of his life. Lale meets Gita in his job as the tattooist of Auschwitz. He’s the person who inks his fellow Jews with the number on their arm by which they will be known from then on.
There are many stories out there about life in the concentration camps, some of which will never be told. Lale deserves the utmost admiration for telling his story, a harrowing and haunting tale of cruelty and inhumanity, a part of history that should never be forgotten. Lale sees opportunities everywhere and does what is necessary to survive. As the tattooist, Lale “enjoyed” a privileged position, able to get away with a bit more than his fellow prisoners did. But it’s also here where I had some issues with the novel as some events seemed a tad too far-fetched, or even impossible, for me.
It’s really rather incredible to think that amidst all this horror, a beautiful love story blossoms. A love that will endure all the vile things that’s thrown at it. Despite everything, Lale continues to give Gita hope, determined that they will both survive and live a long and happy life together. It’s moving and at times quite emotional but also full of hope, uplifting and inspirational.
But for me, the writing lets this book down. It all felt rather matter-of-fact to me, lacking sympathy and I feel Lale and Gita’s story deserved so much more.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is available for purchase.