Title: The Tattooist of Auschwtiz
Author: Heather Morris
“The tattooing has taken only seconds, but Lale’s shock makes time stand still. He grasps his arm, staring at the number. How can someone do this to another human being? He wonders if for the rest of his life, be it short or long, he will be defined by this moment, this irregular number: 32407.”
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a book I have seen on bookstagram and floating around the bookish community for ages! So, when I went on holiday earlier in the month, I was delighted when I discovered that, not only did they have bookshelves scattered around the resort with books you could take, but also that this novel was on one of them! This book is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, who met in one of the most horrific places in history – Auschwitz. Both Slovakian Jews, they find themselves in the Polish concentration camp, and somehow amongst the brutality, a spark of love ignites. While there, Lale is burdened with the task of tattooing his fellow inmates, including Gita, and chooses to abuse his position of power in order to bribe guards, get more food for everyone, and most importantly, sneak precious moments with Gita. But this is no ordinary love story, and while their love for each other may be fierce, the obstacles in their way seem immutable.
What I loved about Lale was his determination to survive. The hope he instilled in others was clear, and even when they had given up, he would not let them accept their fate. Obviously the horror of Nazi concentration camps is almost inconceivable, but reading this story reminded me that the people who endured it, despite their circumstance, manage to find the will keep going – which was truly beautiful to behold.
As much as this is a story about love, and about Lale and Gita’s romance, it was also a story about strength, and the strength of the bond between the people trapped in that hell. This book definitely does not sugar-coat the awful horror of Auschwitz, and with evilness personified in appearances from Nazis as well as the infamous Doctor Mendel, it was hard to understand how anyone could have survived in there. But the friendships formed in the camp were so beautiful to read about, and helped the reader see how everyone can draw strength.
The actual connection between Gita and Lale was palpable throughout – for me though, it was always fraught with the thought that they would never have met if it hadn’t been for the horror of the Nazi regime. But it was nice to see that even in the depths of that kind of darkness, there is a flicker of light.
This book instilled such an inextinguishable sense of hope, that it would be almost impossible not to fall in love with it, and Lale and Gita’s story. I felt honoured that I could hear their story, and I’m so glad Lale got to tell it. Stories like these deserve to be told, not just to remind us that we should endeavour never to let history repeat itself, but also to prove the strength of human resilience even in a time and place when there was seemingly no hope at all.