A deeply horrifying, yet beautiful written story of a couple’s survival of the holocaust. This book moved me to tears and is important for us all to read.
Today I’ll be reviewing The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. In writing this review I acknowledge that it will discuss some sensitive subjects for readers. I do not intend any offence or distress to result from this review and will discuss the topics of this book in a non-specific and sensitive manner.
What’s it about?
You may have heard of this book, or maybe not. If you have, feel free to skip ahead to the next section to read my thoughts on this book.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz tells the story of Lale and the woman he loved. Lale is a well dressed charmer, a ladies man. He is also a Jew, among the first transported from his home country Slovakia, to the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1942.
He stands out among his fellow prisoners, looked up to, and looked after. Eventually he is placed in the privileged position of camp tetovierer, responsible for marking the arms of his fellow prisoners.
One of those he marks is Gita, a young female Jew whom he falls in love with immediately.
Lale struggles to use his position for good, to protect Gita and to dare for a future beyond the wire fences of the camps.
The story is based on years of interviews the author, Heather Morris conducted with the real-life holocaust survivor and tattooist of Auschwitz-Birkenau Ludwig (Lale) Solokov.
What did I like about The Tattooist of Auschwitz?
I’m not sure this is the kind of story anyone likes to read. It’s subject matter is confronting and cuts to the heart for it’s pain. That people went through the horror of the Holocaust is cause for great distress.
That being said this story is one I am glad I read. It is beautifully written and deeply emotive.
I have never cried while reading before. Until I read this book. Heather Morris writing brought an individual story of pain and love to me that I will never forget.
That this book is based on real memories made the book deeply touching and impossible to dismiss. The Holocaust is something that many have tried and failed to describe the horror of, so I will not attempt to capture now what many before me have failed.
While Morris has been critiqued heavily for this book. I find myself unable to do so. The book after all is the memories of a survivor, Lale. It has the endorsement of his and Gita’s family.
While the book does contain some historical inaccuracies (and Morris addresses this herself at the beginning and end of the book) it has value.
I do not have any Jewish relatives that I am aware of. I went to school with someone of Jewish background (I think?) but I like the author, want to hear this story. The holocaust is a story we need to hear, so we can learn from it.
What didn’t I like about the Tattooist of Auschwitz?
This book made me grieve. That was painful. It exposed me to horrific events that were done to innocent people. As I said above, that’s not a process I think many people enjoy.
It is a process that is necessary. My grief is I know fleeting and minute in comparison to the scale of the pain of the victims, survivors and their families. I want to know about these people though, as Heather and Lale both say, they deserve to have their story told.
The de-identification and de-humanising of people will never be okay. It is through telling their stories, and listening that we are able to participate in the healing process for others.
This process of sharing in the role of healing is well documented. Following the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 reconciliation models have been developed and studied that involve the sharing of stories from those involved in the conflict.
(If you’re interested in reading more about this visit the World Vision website here)
I want to help people heal by listening to the stories they have to tell, including Lale, Gita and their family. The minimal discomfort I go through, listening, is nothing compared to their lived experience. The afterword to the book is written by Lale and Gita’s son Gary, and is deeply moving in it’s own way as he reflects on how his parents experience of the holocaust impacted his childhood.
Who should read this book?
This book was thought provoking and extraordinary. I highly recommend it. Not suitable for younger readers. I will be attending an author event with Heather Morris later in November where she will be discussing her latest book, Cilka’s Journey which has been recently released. Stay tuned for a post about that event and Cilka’s Journey.
If you’ve read this book, share what you thought of it by commenting on this review. Which parts of the story stood out to you?
If you haven’t read The Tattooist of Auschwitz, what has book moved you emotionally? One of the best aspects of reading in my opinion is the way it enables us to feel emotionally for others.
Today’s review dealt with some heavy subject matter! I do hope you found this review a helpful guide if you’ve been considering reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz.
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Fantastic review, Steph. I’ve seen the buzz for this book closer to its release date and I’m glad to hear how powerful it actually is. There’s so much to learn from WWII stories, fictional or not. Even if they have often been over-explored in recent historical fiction. This one sounds like something I should definitely check out. Thanks for sharing! 😀
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