The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris
In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.
Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.
One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.
A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions
World War II fiction is almost always decent. It’s almost always hard to argue otherwise. The Holocaust is such harrowing material that it can be written about again and again and again, and it’s always going to be decent, because who the heck is going to be the one to say it’s been done to death? Certainly not I and definitely not here.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is another Holocaust book. This time, it’s a romance, it’s a true story, and it’s an oddly optimistic take on the infamous material. And it works very well.
Lale is a fiercely hopeful protagonist. He tells himself he is going to survive, and boy, does he! He climbs the rungs of the sociopolitical Ladder of the Nazi camp and uses every broken fingernail and rusty metal splinter to his advantage. At first, he’s surviving for himself, but after he meets Gita, every fiber of his malnourished being is devoted to surviving for her. It’s a classic love story with a charming and chivalrous leading man.
I think the greatest strength (and some on Goodreads are stating the exact opposite of me, here), is the writer’s style. Heather Morris is a screenwriter, and I think she’s been able to sift through to the heart of this story. She brings Lale and Gita to life with simplicity and ease, and she just lets them exist. There is a movement and fluidity between scenes, and reading it is really just easy going. She’s taken material that we’re all (overly) familiar with, and repackaged it to us in a lovey-dovey gift box with a sincerity bow. This true story of love in the Holocaust was done with dignity and respect, and it made for very lovable read.