Review of 'The Tattooist of Auschwitz'

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

tattooist_of_auschwitz.jpg “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” is based on the true story of Lale Sokolov who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp just outside of Krakow, Poland by taking on the role of tattooing prisoner's ID numbers onto their arms as they arrived, apologizing humbly to many as he did so. That this was not incredible enough he also managed to find love with a fellow prisoner while he was at it. This is his amazing story.

As you might expect, this story has it's fair share of horrific elements but at it's heart is one man's knack at surviving against all odds. Most will know what happened at the concentration camps so to hear the story from one of the survivors, at a human level, is incredibly moving. What is most horrific here is where the atrocities are so frequent they are treated as almost commonplace. By making himself useful to the Germans Lale managed to largely protect himself from the abuse (and often death) that faced most prisoners. In this hell on earth Lale also managed to do the unthinkable – He found love, and was able to protect this woman from the fate that awaited most others.

Morris is careful to be clear that this book is a fictionalised account of Lale's experience based on exhaustive interviews she had with the man himself and others involved in his story. The supplemental material at the back of the book includes supporting documentation, a short note on Morris' trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, and another trip to Lale's hometown where she is hailed as a hero for sharing Lale's story with such compassion.

You might expect this book would be quite a difficult read and, in a way, you would be correct but there is an element of hope that threads through the story that keeps you reading beyond the horrors of the camp. Morris writes clearly and concisely with a certain degree of attachment that someone still manages to portray the inner emotions of her characters. While reading we will Lale and his love to survive the horrors that surround them. It is incredible to read of daily life in the camp and the often arbitrary brutality meted out to the prisoners and the confusion of many as to what is actually happening with the reader often knowing the true scale of what is going on.

Every day in the camp was a battle to survive with only those with a certain degree of luck and sheer determination managing to do so. Lale was one of those people and we grow to love him and his incredible spirit. He was not a superman or even much of a hero but he was a survivor who managed to do so with his incredible integrity and humility intact.

A moving and emotional story that is highly recommended for anyone who believes in the triumph of the human spirit and those that believe that love conquers all…

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2022-06-12

Genre: General Fiction

Publisher: Bonnier Books

Publication Date: 2018

ISBN: 9781785763670

Other reviewed books by Heather Morris: