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.
A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.
I am so glad I picked this one up, I’m not big into history/historical reads, but WW2 is a topic that I am very interested in, a lot of my family members fought in WW2, my great, great uncle was killed in battle, my great grandad was a prisoner of war in a German led camp for years and my great granny was a nurse in Belfast, she always told me stories of the war when I was younger right up until she died at the age of ninety nine. Reading about the horrors that went on at Auschwitz is never going to be easy, but this book and this story is so good.
This novel is based on a true story, Lale who is sent to Auschwitz and shortly becomes that Tattooer, the one who permanently inks numbers onto the arms of the prisoners, he is a prisoner himself, but will do everything he can to stay alive, including tattooing his fellow inmates.
It is while tattooing a new convoy of prisoners that he meets Gita, a girl he find remarkably beautiful and is determined to meet her and to start a love story with her. I honestly found this love at first sight type meeting so beautiful, even inside this horrifying place, seeing the awful things he was seeing, he was still able to admire Gita’s beauty.
While Lale and Gita are the main storyline, there is so much more. We learn what Lale and his fellow inmates endured, the was they SS treated these people was sickening, the path that Lale went on and what he survived himself is remarkable.
At first, I found it a bit strange that they were willing to take so many risks to see each other in extreme peril and throughout what they we’re facing, but then I thought maybe that’s just what they needed to survive that place, they were one another’s reason to survive, they made that promise. And it made me wonder if there were any other stories like Lale and Gita’s? Others who jeopardized their lives for love while living in impossible and incredibly dire circumstances?
As well as Lale and Gita, the book was filled with other characters of interested, from fellow inmates to guards and workers, I enjoyed reading about what happened to them along when the two main characters, they all really added to the story.
This was an incredible and memorable story that shows the strong will of human survival and the risks that so many took to save not only their own lives, but those around them too. It reads like a memoir almost, which I suppose it is in a way.
The story follows their many years together at Auschwitz and what they faced. Reading the words on the pages stirs up so many emotions, the writing it to the point and a lot of the scenes are heavy hitting and brutal to read. I found myself close to tears so many times, and also wanting to scream at some points.
I couldn’t put this one down, it was a hard and dark read, but I do highly recommend it if you think you can handle it. I also am really looking forward to reading Cilka’s Journey, she played a big part in this book and it’ll be interesting to read her story.