The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival.
There have been many books about the Holocaust – and there will be many more. What makes this one so memorable is Lale Sokolov’s incredible zest for life. He understood exactly what was in store for him and his fellow prisoners, and he was determined to survive – not just to survive but to leave the camp with his dignity and integrity intact, to live his life to the full. Terrible though this story is, it is also a story of hope and of courage. It is also – almost unbelievably – a love story. 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 determined not only to survive himself but to ensure that Gita did, too. His story – their story – will make you weep, but you will also find it uplifting. It shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.
I have read a number of books about the Holocaust and continue to learn something new with each read. In this case, I learned about tattooists. I hadn’t really thought about the numbering/marking of prisoners until I read this book. I also assumed that German soldiers would have been tasked with this. However, from this story, I learned about Lale and other prisoners who were tasked with tattooing new arrivals at the concentration camps.
Lale’s story is deeply moving and memorable. I can’t even begin to explain the horrors that he and others witnessed and experienced at Auschwitz. I admired how he was able to do so much for his fellow prisoners despite his own confinement. Lale heroism wasn’t only in saving lives; it was also in the little things that he did like being gentle when tattooing the prisoners.
This is a story of strength, survival and perseverance in one of the most horrendous times in history. The setting is tough, heart-wrenching and most of the events that take place in the book are horrifying. However, in the midst of all this, there is a story of love and humanity triumphing over adversity. This is memorable a story and I am glad that I had the opportunity to read Lale and Gita’s story