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 over 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.
Wow. What an incredible story. The Tattooist of Auschwitz was a heartbreaking and harrowing, but inspiring story. I am a huge fan of historical fiction and I especially love when these books are based on true events. The Tattooist of Auschwitz was captivating and completely unputdownable! Content warning: there were many graphic and horrific scenes at the concentration camps.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is the true tale of Lale Solokov and his time in Auschwitz. Lale becomes the tattooist and is forced to permanently mark his fellow prisoners with a number. It never occurred to me that this job would be done by a prisoner and not an S.S. officer or other German official. Knowing that a Jewish prisoner was made to do this task makes it even more unimaginable. Lale agonizes over his job, but does it because he is determined to survive. One of his biggest inner struggles is that he could be seen as a Nazi sympathizer. He ultimately does his job so that he can live. I can’t imagine being in this situation. This is one of the many reasons why books about the Holocaust are so important. We need to be educated and to remember about the horrors that were done. We need to imagine/picture these situations so never let it happen again.
One wouldn’t think that a story about Auschwitz and the Holocaust would be about a blossoming love story, but The Tattooist of Auschwitz was exactly that. To be honest, Lale and Gita’s love story started off a bit strong for me. Lale saw Gita one time and was instantly obsessed with her. I know the author wrote this book after interviewing Lale so it’s all from his perspective. At first I was like come on that’s ridiculous insta-love, but then I realized it was true and actually love at first sight. Their love for one another gives them the strength to fight to survive. It was simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking reading Lale and Gita’s story. I loved their love, but I can’t imagine the daily terror of not knowing if you’d ever see each other again. Small spoiler. . . I loved that the author included pictures of Lale and Gita!
The only reason I could not give The Tattooist of Auschwitz five stars was because of the writing style. The story is five stars, but the writing is one or two. This is because the writing was very simplistic. There was very little prose. I think a different author would have been able to create a more emotional and all encompassing atmosphere. Also, I so wish that the book was written from Lale and Gita’s points of view. It was Lale’s story and his words and I think the author did a disservice by not having first person story telling. I did love that Morris included an afterword by Gary Solokov and an author’s note with more info about how she met Lale and their interview process.
I am so glad that I discovered The Tattooist of Auschwitz and got to learn about Lale and Gita’s story. I will carry this book with me forever.