The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris: A Book Review

Since I was a teenager, I have read many different types of Holocaust stories.  Lately, I’ve been reading fiction centered around the events in World War II.

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By far, one of the best I have read is Heather Morris’ novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.  I thought that this book was a work of fiction, so I was surprised to find it was based on a true story.  The events seems so impossible to believe!

The story follows Lale Sokolov, a Slovokian Jew, who volunteers to go with the Nazis because his town is told that if a man from each family does not go, that family will be punished.  After some delay, he ends up in Auschwitz in 1942.

Soon after arriving, he becomes sick with typhus, but a friend he’s made on the train to Auschwitz saves his life, likely at the expense of his own.  Such begins the “lucky” streak for Lale, who, like a cat with nine lives, time and time again escapes certain death.

Lale’s story on its own would have been interesting enough, but there is a second, more prominent story–Lale meets and falls in love with Gita.  In a place where people are murdered every day, Lale and Gita’s romance thrives.

Gita, too, has her own story, and thanks to Lale’s protection, she is just as lucky as him and seems to have just as many lives.

They both have privileged jobs in the camp–Lale is the tattooist at Auschwitz, the first Jew other incoming prisoners meet, and he is the one who tattoos their prison numbers on their arm.  In return for his work, he gets extra rations and a private place to sleep.  But Lale takes matters into his own hand and works out a system for getting even more food, which he shares with the other prisoners in the camp.

Gita works in the Nazi administrative office, and she, too, is privy to more information and privileges than others in the camp.

I couldn’t put this down and finished the book in just a few days, which is about as fast as my busy schedule will allow.  My only negative about this book is that I wish I knew what events were true and which were fictionalized.  With a story based on events in the Holocaust, I think it’s very, very important not to mix truth with fiction.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.

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