Advertising: * The book was provided to me by Netgalley and Zaffer/Bonnier as a review copy. The review nevertheless reflects my honest and personal opinion.
The tattooist of Auschwitz is a heartbreaking, devastating book but also a book full of hope. Of that small shimmering light at the end of a tunnel. Of love. Of humanity in the worst possible place one can only imagine. A book based on a true story of a great and humble man who survived Auschwitz together with is one true love, Gita. The love he meet while tattooing her number – the number, that replaced the identity of thousands and marked them for life. A reminder of their biggest nightmare and the most horrific time of human history.
Lale was born in Slovakia. He was a bit of a dandy, a jack-the-lad. He enjoyed life to the fullest, loved food, wine, girls and led a normal live with his family and friends. But one blink of an eye later he was on a cattle train bound to Auschwitz-Birkenau and to the most horrific time of his life, but also a time full of hope. He soon finds out that it is best to be humble, not to look the SS in the eye and to be quiet. He was given the job of tattooing the prisoners. He was the one who marked all his fellow prisoners with their number. But this position gave him some advantages and he starts to trade diamonds, rings etc. from dead prisoners in order to get some extra food. Food he shared with as many prisoners as possible, always risking getting caught and put to death.
But he didn’t lose his hope. One day there comes a transport with young girls. Amongst them Gita, and he fell in love at first sight.
They sit in a palce where people are dying every day, every hour, every minute. (P. 38)
He swears to himself and to her, that they would get through this and someday will live a full and happy life. A thought that got im up every morning and that kept him alive.
I will live to leave this place. I will walk out as a free man. If there is a hell, I will see these murderes burn in it. (P. 23)
Heather Morris manages to tell it as a love-story and a story full of hope without „sugar-coating“ this horrible time. She keeps to the facts and also tells us about the horrific treatment and describes the living conditions of the prisoners. But she always shows us Lales spirit and courage and his will to go on. She met Lale Sokolov in his late eighties. He kept his story secret for over 50 years. But when Gita died, Lale felt he could no longer carry the burden of their past alone. He wanted his story to be told, so people will never forget and that something like this would never happen again.
It is horrible what things are happening right now here in Germany and all over the world. As if some didn’t learn anything from our past. That makes it even more important, that the fade of millions of people during the WWII and the Holocuast should never be forgotten. After years of interviews with Lale, Heather Morris wrote his and Gitas story down to help share his story.
Heather Morris was born in New Zealand and lives in Australia. She is working in a large public hospital in Melbourne. She studied and wrote screenplays for several years. One was optioned by an Academy Award-winning screenwriter in the US. Heather was introduced to an elderly gentleman in 2003 who „might just have a sotry worth telling“. This man was Lale. This daz change both their lives, their freindship grew and he emarked on a journey on self-scrutiny, entrusting the innermost details of his live during the Holocaust to Morris.