Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction

Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

tattooistBased on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov—a love story in the midst of atrocity.

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.

5 stars

Historical Fiction | Adult Fiction | Holocaust | WWII

It is official, I am a historical fiction junkie. I don’t know what has gotten into me recently but I honestly made a goal to go back to my other favorite genres, now I am actively looking for more historical fiction – I just cannot stop. I blame The Tattooist of Auschwitz. This was such riveting, powerful, and just overall emotional read that just set the bar rather high for my expectations for this genre in 2019. I was absolutely captivated body and soul from start to finish…

Learning about Lale and Gita’s story was just crushing. Heart pounding, bone chilling, and downright tear jerk of a tale. Based on their true story, I was both moved and devastated. I really enjoyed growing with both the characters, though this is mostly told in the perspective of Lale, we do get tidbits of Gita. They honestly had this powerful tug romance that just made everything seem brighter in a way. 

Setting aside even their romance because though it was a beautiful dynamic, it was only a portion of what experiences Lale encountered that made this book so amazing. Honestly a lot of Lale’s experiences as the tattooist in the camp was the most harrowing, and beyond crippling of builds. On one angle, it allowed him certain freedoms within the camp however with this came so much extra knowledge that I think really affected his entire outlook on his hope of surviving. The moments of him walking into one of the chambers, reading the part of his ‘friend’ saying to him being the first Jew to walk in one and walk out alive was… was heartbreaking to think people spoke with such a joking tone on such a horrible situation. Being Lale, having to identify bodies – I still couldn’t even wrap my mind around everything as the tears fell from my eyes. 

As for the supporting characters it was interesting to see the dynamics of dialogue differences plus there was a level of development that the character’s presence had on just the overall world building. No character was insignificant. I think I adored Leon the most, it was something about his interactions with Lale just made the situation more human, more real with what was really happening in the camp, aside from just Lale’s point of view.

Really, I do not think there is a single thing I can say about The Tattooist of Auschwitz that I did not enjoy learning about. This book crushed me in every beautifully catastrophic kind of way. It pulled at every heart string I had; between every conversation, the suffering, the moments of pure happiness in such a whirlwind of pain; it was moving. I think that is what made it such an amazing read, the fact that such much hideous things thriving around this camp was that no matter it, Gita and Lale found one another. Not only that but learning Lale’s mission to bring such hope to everyone he encountered, it was just magnificent. 

Keep in mind too, that even though this is based on a true story, it is a historical fiction, meaning (and Heather Morris does explain this in the end notes which I think is very interesting to read if you are interested…) there are some attributes that are not actual fact. So there is truth to the story, there are changes, there are different names and perhaps moments of different elaboration on certain points of events. In my opinion this kept the story as a beautiful story that allowed the reader to enjoy from a face value of an actual emotional read and less like a history biography. Just a phenomenal read. 

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