Historical fiction is my favorite genre and it is always a delight to read. However, this is my first experience with stories about the holocaust and maybe I have actually avoided them prior to this time as I do not have the stomach for horrifying stories of wickedness, suffering and death.
“The Tatooist of Auschwitz” is different. Based on a true story and told by a survivor of the holocaust, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, It is not only a story about the horrors of being a prisoner in a German concentration camp but also of undying romantic love, hope and God’s grace.
Love, because amidst all the brutality, emotional torture and pain, Lale meets Gita, they fall in love, and find joy and warmth even when they were unsure of living through each day. Hope, because Lale somehow always saw himself walk out of “this prison” even when there were many times he had near death experiences. At some point, his security detail, Beretski asked him if he was sure he wasn’t a cat with nine lives as he escaped being killed on several occasions. He also always told Gita that someday, they would be free to make love to each other, where ever and whenever they wanted, where that faith came from, I can never comprehend. The grace of God because, from the moment Lale stepped into the camp, there was no doubt that God’s hand was upon him. When his captors discovered he could speak several languages, he was given the job of the ‘Tatoowierer’ (German word for tattooist) where he tattooed numbers on his fellow prisoners as a form of identification. This position came with a lot of privileges such as a private room to sleep, extra rations of food (which he secretly shared with other prisoners) and access to almost everywhere in the camp.
I loved everything about this story, the good, the bad and the ugly! I count myself lucky to have the opportunity of reading or rather listening (I listened to the audio book) to this part of world history. I particularly enjoyed this audio book which was narrated by Richard Armitage because of his ability to change accents and tones as representative of different characters. It was truly and enjoyable experience. I also learnt quite a few lessons. Lale’s talent /knowledge of languages opened doors for him even in the worst of situations and this says a lot. You always need to have something to offer, anywhere you go. A skill or talent whether natural or learned always comes in handy when you least expect it. Also kindness, generosity and empathy are necessary virtues to imbibe if you don’t have them as they will always come back to you in your time of need.
Many times, I had to stop listening because of the gruesome things that were done to prisoners and unspeakable things that carried on in the camps. These parts, I did not really like but it is part of the story and I am glad got to the end of it.
This book is a must read. Thank you Lale Sokolov for sharing your story with the rest of us and well done Heather Morris for putting it all together in one nice piece.
I rate this book 4.5 stars and I encourage everyone to read it. It is now going on my “Favorite Reads” list.
Published: September, 2018 by Harper
Genre: Historical Fiction
The Author: Heather Morris is a Native of New Zealand now resident in Australia, working in a large public hospital in Melbourne. For several years she studied and wrote screenplays, one of which was optioned by an academy award winning Screenwriter in the U.S. In 2003, she was introduced to an elderly gentleman “who might just have a story worth telling”. The day she met Lale Sokolov changed her life, as their friendship grew and he embarked on a journey of self scrutiny, entrusting the inner most details of his life during the Holocaust. She originally wrote Lale’s story as a screenplay – which ranked high in international competitions – before reshaping it into this debut novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.