The Tattooist of Auschwitz: A Novel

by Heather Morris

Digital audiobook, 2018


HarperAudio (2018)


"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 more than 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"--Dust jacket flap.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member HeatherLINC
I feel terrible for giving "The Tattooist of Auschwitz" such a low rating considering it was based on the true story of Lale Sokolov, however, it was not for the story itself, which was inspirational, but for the actual writing. All survivors of the Holocaust should have their stories heard, and
Show More
Lale and Gita's grim determination to stay alive whilst prisoners of Auschwitz was truly amazing, but the writing left me cold. It was too simplistic and factual, and the dialogue never flowed naturally; it always felt stilted and forced. As characters, Lale and Gita were both very bland and poorly developed and, while their love story was touching, I never connected with either of them emotionally.

Considering everything Lale and Gita endured and witnessed whilst in Auschwitz, there should have been far more atmosphere in this book than there was. The horror, desperation and fear they must have felt on a daily basis as they struggled for their existence in a place where hope was all but gone, were all missing. I was left unmoved and dispassionate as I came to the end of "The Tattooist of Auschwitz", and I thought the author did a disservice to their story.

Gary, the son of Gita and Lale, wrote a short afterword and in those few pages I felt more emotion and was on the verge of tears more than I was anywhere else in the book. Sadly, I think Gary would have been better suited to write his parents' story.
Show Less
LibraryThing member joannemonck
A story of love overcoming the worst possible scenario. We all know the horrors of Auschwitz so no need to go over them again. The only problem I had with this book is the it seemed unreal. I can't believe one person can have as much "luck" as he did when no one else seemed to. From befriending his
Show More
guard, to getting food from some workers in town, to getting his girlfriend an easier "job" in the office. There were just too many Lucky Instances to be. totally believable.
Show Less
LibraryThing member GrandmaCootie
Very disappointing. Based on the reviews on the back of the book I expected much more than this story delivered. The subtitle of the book is, “Based on the powerful true story of love and survival.” If this had in fact been Lale Sokolov’s memoir written with the help of author Heather Morris
Show More
then the juvenile writing, unbelievable scenarios, so many giggly moments and glossing over the truly horrific events that took place in the concentration camps would have been forgivable. After all, a survivor can recall and retell their story any way they like; that doesn’t make it less true or their experience less real. But to novelize the story and make it so whitewashed like a week at camp and then call it the most extraordinary story of the Holocaust and enduring love is misleading and a disservice to the truly great books of what the Jews and others in the camps endured. The more I read, the more irritated I became with this story.
Show Less
LibraryThing member labfs39
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a book that blurs the lines between history, fiction, memoir, and historical fiction. Because the subtitle of the book is "A Novel," that is how I began reading it. But I had only read a few chapters when I began to suspect that it was weighted more toward memoir than
Show More
novel. A blurb reads "Based on the Powerful True Story of Love and Survival." But how far along that scale between fiction and history was it? It's a question I struggle with often, along with how accurate are memories (and translations). Then I finished the book and read the appendices, which include three photos of the couple and an afterward by their son. The author was able to interview the protagonist, Lale Sokolov, over a period of three years. Evidence that slides the book further toward the history/memoir side of the scale.

Lale Sokolov is a smartly-dressed ladies man with a bright future when the Nazis order one man from every Slovak family to join a group of would-be workers for the Germans. Lale volunteers, and arrives at the rendezvous point in a sharp suit and with a suitcase of books. The true purpose of the selection becomes more clear when the men are loaded into cattle cars heading toward Poland. Lale's story of life in the camps, how he landed a protected job in the camp, and how he met Gita is honest, but upbeat and a bit sugarcoated. It's an unusual tone for a Holocaust book, but seems to suit his personality (both in the book and real life).

Despite being a close retelling, there are a couple of errors, I found puzzling. Lale's name is actually spelled Lali, and Gita's tattoo was the number 4562, not 34902. This latter has created some consternation among historians and survivors. The tattooed number was used to replace a person's name and make it easier for the Nazis to think of people as things, dehumanized and nameless. It was both an ugly practicality and a symbolic loss of self. To not correctly associate a survivor's tattooed number with their name, is to further separate the person from themselves. To many survivors, this was an affront.

Overall, I found the book a quick and not depressing book, which I enjoyed more when I read the matter at the end of the book. Knowing the details of the real Lali and Gita added depth to the fictionalized account. 3.5 stars
Show Less
LibraryThing member Slevyr26
I think maybe I’m the only one to give this book such a low rating but this book upset me, not because of the horrors of the Holocaust. There are better books out there that show the real suffering and fates of 12 million people. This book was intended to be a movie. Plain and simple. I am not
Show More
buying that somehow, some way, Lale was so unbelievably lucky that he could essentially run around Auschwitz without too much care to see Gita, that he could bribe SO. MANY. NAZIS. that were trained to kill for the slightest of reasons. He got away with all this smooth talking? This muttering behind SS backs? Exchanging jewels and chocolates received from Soviets who got to leave every day and giving them to kapo and high ranking Nazi officials without so much as a talking to? A slap on the wrist? Kapos were willing to exchange chocolate for him to see Gita? He and Gita had the ability to hide behind the administration building for three years to fool around and never get caught? It’s all too good to be true. Nobody is that lucky in the Holocaust. Nobody. I am not saying this book is making light of one of the most heinous tragedies in world history, but for people who did not grow up - like me - devouring WW2 and Holocaust non-fiction and fiction alike, this is not a good teacher of what a horror show it was. This makes it seem like it wasn’t THAT BAD. You know, just be smart. Know 8 languages. Save the girl you love, it’s easy. Sorry, no. I don’t buy it. What I do buy is the ‘additional information’ in the back two pages. The simple documentation of Lale and Gita’s lives. That, indeed, was more believable and realistic to me than the entire book. I looked up the controversy behind this AFTER I read the book, which I'm glad about, because I might have given this an even lower rating than two stars. The whole story feels like a made-for-film script and I'm glad my instincts were right. This book cannot and should not be interpreted as anything but fiction with maybe a hint or two of fact thrown in here and there. It is fiction, with historical aspects.
Show Less
LibraryThing member jfe16
This is not a story to “like.”

The horror of the Holocaust is destined to fade into the often murky shadows of forgotten history unless the voices of those who lived it never fall silent.
Stories such as this retelling of events as remembered by a courageous man who survived this abhorrent
Show More
nightmare remind us of the depths of depravity men are capable of reaching.

Read it, not for characterizations, not for gut-wrenching story-telling, not even for an accurate historical record.
Read it for the haunting truth that we must never forget.
Read it to find the glimmer of hope that refuses to be extinguished.
Read it for the love that lights the deepest, darkest corners of our world.

Highly recommended.
Show Less
LibraryThing member HandelmanLibraryTINR
This beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov—an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity.
LibraryThing member evatkaplan
Writing just o.k.. Unrealistic how Tatooist goes thru auschwitz, meets his future wife when he does her tattoo. How he stays alive and gets thru the concentration camp.

true story, but poorly presented. easy read
LibraryThing member Kathl33n
This was a beautiful story but I thought it was written completely without emotion. I wonder how the author could spend three years learning this story from the MC and then retell it without seeming to portray an emotional connection to any of the characters.
LibraryThing member adam.currey
I was somewhat disappointed in this book. I enjoyed it, but nowhere near as much as I expected to. It's a story of great contrasts; of kindness, compassion, and even love amongst the greatest of human cruelty. I expected to be moved, perhaps even to tears, but I wasn't, not even close. The story is
Show More
narrated in a very simplistic, factual style that tells the story of what happened but it fails to generate any emotional investment in the reader.
Show Less
LibraryThing member emanate28
An amazing story of survival and resilience, told in an undramatic way. The story is incredible--that two people met and fell in love at Auschwitz/Birkenau, that they managed to survive it all, and that they found each other after being separated as Auschwitz fell...! It would seem crazy if it were
Show More
a work of fiction.

For me, though, the writing was indifferent. Perhaps it's very difficult to make a true story fraught with horrors into a book that manages to convey the horror while not making it a sensationalist melodrama. And maybe I just don't have enough of an imagination. Nonetheless, somehow the writing wasn't vivid, and the story came across almost mundane. So not a bad piece of work, but not as gripping as I had expected.
Show Less
LibraryThing member thiscatsabroad
I was really disappointed with this book - yes, the story was moving, but the writer´s overly simplistic and almost juvenile style of writing made this an almost boring read. I see that this was intended as a screenplay, & perhaps it would have best written as such.
LibraryThing member SamSattler
"The Tattooist of Auschwitz" left me with mixed feelings and, honestly, my opinion of the novel still seems to be changing from hour to hour. It's not that author Heather Morris is a bad writer; she's not. It's more that she never really made me feel the true horror of what life was like in a WWII
Show More
German concentration camp. Morris touched on all of the atrocities that occurred to those so unfortunate as to find themselves imprisoned by the Germans: the brutality, the depravities, murders, medical "experiments," rapes, starvation, the crematoriums, the forced labor, etc., it's all there. But the book's main character Lale Sokolov lived such a blessed existence in the camp despite all that was going on around him, that it's hard to shake the feeling that this is more a romance novel than a historical novel. (And, yes, the real Lale Sokolov chose Morris to tell his story and worked with her to produce it.)

Bottom line, this is the story of a young Jewish man who fell instantly in love with one of the women he was tasked to tattoo an identification number on at Auschwitz. Lale became Gita's protector and advisor, managed to sneak her and her friends extra rations that he purchased from a civilian camp worker, and even got her the medicine that saved her life when it appeared that she had almost no chance of recovery. Theirs is a beautiful love story. That both survived and managed to find each other after the chaos of the death camp's liberation is a miracle. That all of this happened in the real world is simply astonishing, but I'm just not sure that the novel quite does justice to their story.
Show Less
LibraryThing member varwenea
“Tattooist of Auschwitz” is a work of fiction that is based on true events sharing the story of Lale (should be Lali) Sokolov’s life, a real person! From his train ride going towards Auschwitz, his life in Auschwitz as a tattooist (which has extra benefits), his escape from the Nazi’s in
Show More
the Vienna camp, captured by the Russians to be a translator, before finally returning to Slovakia where he is reunited with his love from the Auschwitz camp, Gita Furman. The story is rather incredible, having lived an almost ‘privileged’ life in the camp, if only all of it is true. Because the book claims “every reasonable attempt to verify the facts against available documentation has been made”, there’s a sense that the book is largely factual, adding gravity to the tale.

I should have researched reviews and comments a bit more before buying/reading this. It was a disappointing “popcorn” read, which feels super weird for a book about Auschwitz. While there is plenty of centration camp vileness, there is also plenty of gushiness and giddiness between Lale and Gita. I am most thrown off by the juvenile writing. Morris used a linear factual style of writing (this happened and then that happened) without much reflections. (Note: This writing started as a screenplay, which may explain the lack of contemplations.) The reader ought to be cognizant of the fact that despite ToA being based on actual events (supposedly 95% according to Morris), the story is glued together with fiction/imagination. Morris excused her approach saying she received the information from then age 87 Lali Sokolov in a random, almost brain-dump manner. Unfortunately, a December 2018 ‘Guardian’ article reported that the Auschwitz Memorial Research Centre has challenged the book’s claims of factual authenticity. Meanwhile, Sokolov’s son Gary told the New York Times that his father’s name had been misspelled as “Lale”, instead of “Lali”. Even the name is wrong! Gita’s number is also interchangeably 34902 and 4562. So weird to have these discrepancies…
Show Less
LibraryThing member Headinherbooks_27
It's a comfort to know that despite of the bleak circumstances, they were still able to find love and hang on to hope. I couldn't put this book down. I couldn't bring myself to stop reading. It was such a powerful and unforgettable story.
LibraryThing member teachlz
My Review of “The Tattooist of Auschwitz ” by Heather Morris

Kudos to Heather Morris, Author of “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” for combining the Historical Fiction and Fiction genres. From the Goodreads Blurb”, “The “Tattooist of Auschwitz” is based on the true story of Lale and Gita
Show More
Sokolov two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia.”

In this novel, Heather Morris portrays Lale as a charming, and enterprising individual. To save his family, Lale volunteers to leave with the German Gestapo, believing that his family will be safe. Of course, Lale realizes when he is in a crowded Cattle Car, he suspects that this is the beginning of a devastating time. Lale does reach out and helps calm some other men. In Auschwitz, Lale somehow finds himself becoming The Tattooist, having to tattoo the numbers on his fellow prisoners. There he meets Gita, a young frightened girl that he has to tattoo. He falls in love immediately with her.

In the concentration camp, Lale is determined to survive. The role of “Tattooist” is regarded as a high ranking role, and could cause suspicion among the other prisoners.He is also carefully watched by the German guards and superiors. Lale is given a little more freedom, and food, and tries to live each day to survive.

Lale, being enterprising is able to gets his hands on food and other essentials to help others, by doing dangerous things. Lale feels he has to continue and uses the position of “The Tatooist” to try and help others.

These are deadly and devastating times, and many of the people in the camps have given into despair. Gale manages to find the will to survive and find love with Gita.

I appreciate that Heather Morris has done tremendous research and interview with Lale, who finally wishes to share his story so that others won’t forget what happened to so many people. I would recommend this story to readers of Historical Fiction that can read about the Holocaust. I received an ARC of this story for my honest review.

Show Less
LibraryThing member Beamis12
Reviewing a novel about the Holocaust on Holocaust Remembrance day seems both apropos, and a great responsibility. Never forget! As long as there are people who need to tell! Their stories, I will continue to read and remember. This is a fictionalized account of a true story, told to the author in
Show More
the final days of his life. Lale was a young Jewish man from Slovakia, with much to look forward to, when in an effort to save the rest of his family, he is taken to Auschwitz. There he will become the tattooist, the man who tattoos those horrendous numbers on the prisoners arms. A prestigious job in the camp that gives him priviledges many don't have, also a certain freedom. How he uses this freedom is a big part of the story. A story with many horrors terrors and yes even love.

I dislike rating these stories. I always feel like I am rating, in this case, a man's life, passing judgement on his horrifying experiences. They were, but this young man was fortunate, not a good word to use obviously, in many instances that found others either shot or beaten to death. He had a sunny personality and vowed to survive the camp, maybe the reason the tone of this was more light than many others of the camps that I have read. Maybe this is the story he needed to remember to survive, only he can know that. The writing is less emotional than some, a kind of storytelling tone, which I guess makes sense as the author was telling a story. For me though, often times, I felt an emotional disconnect. It is though, impossible not to like Lale, he indeed uses his position, well. We meet other important characters, the young woman who he would come to love, her friends. Some of the guards, and all play their parts in this story.

I do love how at the end of the book the author let's the reader know what happened to some of the main people in this novel. One young women's fate I found particularly unfair. At the end their is an added bonus and it is here that I felt all the emotions I had been missing. Never forget!!!

ARC from Netgalley.
Show Less
LibraryThing member debkrenzer
This was such a great book for me. I loved the characters especially and sped right through it.

I loved that, for the most part, the gas chambers, crematoriums and the other human atrocities were scenery. Not to say that it wasn't prevalent, but it wasn't the gist of the story.

The story was about a
Show More
man who did everything he could to save himself and still be able to live with himself. And, also what he could do for the people around him. He was responsible for saving many lives by sneaking in food, hiding people, etc., whatever it took.

Such a great, great book! I loved it!!! A really strong feel good read, despite the atrocities, that had me speeding right through this one.

Thanks to Bonnier Zaffre and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
Show Less
LibraryThing member miss.mesmerized
When times become hard for Jews in 1942 Slovakia, Ludwig Eisenberg, named Lale, decides to save his family and to present himself to the enemy. After some days waiting he is transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, today the synonym with Nazi cruelty. He soon attracts attention due to his knowledge of
Show More
several languages and his ability to cope with people. He becomes the tattooist of Auschwitz, the person who replaces the peoples’ names with a number on their wrist. Lale’s extraordinary capabilities make him wander between the lines, on the one hand, he serves the Nazis, on the other, he supports the Jews and gypsies in the camp. When He first sees Gita, he completely falls for her. But a concentration camp is not the best scenery for a love story, especially since you never know if you will die tomorrow.

Heather Morris has written a compelling story in one of the most awful places the Nazi regime has created. Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest concentration camp where more than one million persons found death during the second world war and where Josef Mengele carried out is gruesome experiments, is today a museum and remembrance site which aims at preventing such a thing from happening ever again.

The story is based on the narration of the real Lale Eisenberg who later called himself Sokolov when he, after surviving the Holocaust, started a new life first in Slovakia and then Australia. It is incredible to read about his life in the camp, especially considering the fact that he as a kind of collaborator was relatively well off. Those who are burnt in the gas chambers, those who fell prey to Menegle’s experiments and all the ones who died from hunger or illness are only on the fringes of the story. So after all, we actually get one of the happier sides of being held prisoner under unimaginable conditions even though this one isn’t free of tragedy either.

But it is not only the story itself which is moving, it is also the author’s style which makes the book stand out. Most of the narration is in chronological order, only towards the end Lale has some kind of flashbacks of the time before he came to the camp. He never would have guessed that they were in real danger, that Hitler would invade Slovakia and certainly not all that he sees in Auschwitz. Morris makes the reader actually feel what Lale feels, quite often his emotions are palpable which makes the story go deep inside you. Especially in the moments when he is separated from Gita or close to death.

Since it is based on a true story, this is certainly a life which needed to be told and which should be read about widely.
Show Less
LibraryThing member jmchshannon
Given the current trend of governments moving away from democracy around the world, the timing of two new novels about the Nazi regime during World War II feels particularly prescient. The two novels are nothing alike, told from two very different perspectives of Nazi Germany, but they both are
Show More
important for modern readers. Not only do they serve as a warning cry to not only never forget what happened. They also serve as a reminder to remain diligent and aware in order to prevent something like that happening again.

V. S. Alexander‘s novel The Taster shows Nazi Germany from an insider’s perspective. Magda’s position as one of Hitler’s food tasters highlights his paranoia and his general fear of germs and murder plots. She provides readers with so much more though than just an intimate view of Hitler’s neuroses. Through Magda we see how well the Nazis hid the truth from the German citizens. We see the insidiousness of the Nazi regime and the unspoken fear with which they reigned. We see the reasons why the German people supported Hitler and considered him Germany’s savior and the blind faith they had that he would succeed. Lastly, we see that everyone had differing opinions as to the Nazis. Some supported him without question, others supported him with doubts, some feared his rule but did nothing, and others actively fought against the Nazi party using guerrilla tactics where possible.

Magda’s unique position affords readers an enticing look at all of this. Her story is as engaging as it is educational. The fact that it is based on the accounts of Hitler’s actual tasters makes it all the more compelling. Still, there is the feel that much of Magda’s story has been spiced up a bit. Her presence at certain scenes, and especially her friendship with Eva Braun, are most certainly a plot contrivance meant to give the story a bit more zest. This does not lessen some of the key points made – the growing desperation on the part of the Hitler party leaders, Hitler’s dichotomous nature, the increasing disconnect between the news reports about the war’s successful progression with nightly bombings and battles occurring ever closer to German soil. It does however mute their importance.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also based on a firsthand account, but unlike The Taster, there is no doubt that Lale’s story has no embellishments. It may be a novel, but it is nonfiction in the guise of fiction. This is an unusual narrative choice, but it makes Lale’s story easier to stomach. Anyone who entered the gates of Auschwitz in 1942 and survived the entire war and post-war chaos has lived through hell and has the stories to match. By filtering these stories through the medium of fiction, it softens the harsh edges of the truth and makes it more palatable.

Whereas desperation tinges Magda’s story, especially as the war draws to a close, hope and love are the defining themes of Lale’s story. This is a major distinction between the two novels and is as much a result of the different situations in which each of the two main characters existed as it is to their personalities. Magda was merely an observer, letting history happen around her, but Lale was an active participant in everything that happened to him. From the opening paragraph, we know that survival was Lale’s sole goal for whatever the Germans had in store for him. We see this in his manipulation of situations in his favor, no matter how it made him look to his fellow prisoners.

Moreover, he knew that in order to survive maintaining hope was essential, and we see him not only doing so for himself but finding reasons to help others remain hopeful. In addition, love literally changed his life. In a testament to the power to love, meeting his future wife shortly upon his arrival gave him the drive and reason to live, and the dream of marrying Gita as a free person allowed him to remain hopeful through the worst of what mankind can instill on others. In many ways, Lale’s story is as much of a love story as it is a personal observation of the horrors of war.

If The Taster is akin to a carousel ride, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is the most death-defying roller coaster. The former is entertaining, mild, and the type of story that allows you to remain an emotionless observer. The latter, though, is an emotional punch in the gut that demands you not only pay attention but become emotionally involved. Even with the filter smoothing the rough edges of horror, Lale’s story contains harsh realities that remain all the more disgusting because of their truth. For all of that, the layer of hope and his profound sense of love for Gita and for his fellow prisoners reminds you of the beauty of humanity and provides a fantastic juxtaposition for everything he experienced.
Show Less
LibraryThing member susan0316
This is a beautifully written, wonderfully researched novel about a Jewish man during WWII. The historical fiction novel is based on a real person who told his story to the author. He and his wife had kept their lives private after they moved to Australia after the war but after his wife died after
Show More
over 50 years of marriage, he felt the need to share their story with the world.

Lale Sokolov was a young man when he decided to go to a work camp to save the rest of his family. He finds out later that this was a lie and most of the rest of his family didn't survive. He was given the role at a tattooist - the person who tattooed the numbers on the arms of the prisoners. Because he had a bit more freedom that most, he was able to get extra food to share with other people. One day he saw Gita and knew that he had to get to know her. The next several years were terrible for both of them and the atrocities that went on were horrendous. He managed to find her again after the war and they immigrated to Australia.

This is a difficult story to read due to the horrible things that were going on in the camps but Lale had decided early on that he would survive and that thought kept him alive every day. So even though it's a very sad story - it's also very uplifting and shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.

Thanks to netgalley for a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.
Show Less
LibraryThing member nbmars
Lale Sokolov (born Ludwig Eisenberg), born in Krompachy, Slovia in 1916, was transported by the Nazis to Auschwitz on April 23, 1942. He was 24, healthy, and could speak a number of languages, which proved very fortunate for him. In fact, as inappropriate as it seems to speak of an inmate of Nazi
Show More
concentration camps having a lot of “luck,” the fact is that Lale, in spite of his circumstances, had an inordinate amount of it. Even one of the S.S. marveled he was like a cat with nine lives.

Lale became a Tätowierer, or tattooist, for the camp, one of the men assigned to brand the prisoners when they arrived, just as was done to Lale when he came to Auschwitz. The Nazis used the tattoos to identify bodies after they killed them, in order to comply with their meticulous record-keeping showing who arrived and who was killed.

Lale hated the job, but it was a way to keep alive, and he vowed when he came there that he would survive and see those who were responsible pay a price. He held on to that thought using it like a mantra to make himself get out of bed each morning, and the next and the next.

He soon got another reason to go on living, after meeting a girl whose tattoo had faded and needed to be redone: Gita Furman (born Gisela Fuhrmannova) was also from Slovakia. Lale was entranced by her dark eyes, and began a secret courtship with her. He was helped by a number of factors. Because he was one of only two Tätowierers, he had more freedom than other prisoners, and even got extra rations. He was able to walk around and befriend two local workers, from whom he received meat, chocolate, and even medicine, for which he paid in jewels confiscated by the Nazis from incoming prisoners. He got those from the girls who worked in “Canada,” where the prisoners possessions were collected and processed. The girls transferred jewels and money to Lale, and he in turn got them what they needed. He was in this way able to help get Gita penicillin when she was sick and then obtain a job in the office where life would be easier for her. He also bribed the guard in charge of Gita’s barrack to get time to see her. He also helped anyone he could who needed it, and he was repaid in kind when he himself needed help. In this way both he and Gita survived until 1945, when the Russians were closing in and the Germans abandoned the camp. But first, the Nazis tried to kill remaining prisoners. Lale and Gita independently escaped and made their separate ways back to Slovakia.

Lale went to the main train station in Bratislava every day, hoping to find Gita among the many survivors coming daily. And after two weeks, there she was. They were married in October, 1945. When he got into trouble with the new government in Czechoslovakia, again Lale got lucky, and he and Gita escaped, making their way to Australia in 1949.

The author met Lale in 2003, after Gita died and when Lale wanted to tell his story to a writer who was not Jewish, so would more likely be without personal baggage or preconceptions. She visited Lale two or three times a week for three years until his own death in 2006 and gradually learned his story: “We had become friends - no, more than friends….” as she learned what happened sixty years before.

Although the author decided to call this book a novel because she has created dialogue based on what Lale told her and because of the uncertainty of the veracity of memory, she states:

“Lale’s memories were, on the whole, remarkably clear and precise. They matched my research into people, dates, and places.”

She concludes:

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a story of two ordinary people living in an extraordinary time, deprived not only of their freedom but also their dignity, their names, and their identities. It is Lale’s account of what they needed to do to survive. Lale lived his life by the motto: ‘If you wake up in the morning, it is a good day.’ On the morning of his funeral I woke knowing it was not a good day for me, but that it would have been for him. He was now with Gita.”

I would only object that Lale and Gita were not, in fact, “ordinary.” As Lale said to Gita about her friend Cilka, who was forced to perform sexual acts with one of the SS, “Tell her I think she is a hero. . . You’re a hero, too, my darling. That the two of you have chosen to survive is a type of resistance to these Nazi bastards. Choosing to live is an act of defiance, a form of heroism.”

Lale also, to me, was heroic, and extraordinary.

The book includes photos and some additional information about the fate of others mentioned in the story.

Evaluation: This powerful book of courage and hope when there is no justification to feel either is an incredible story, and highly recommended.
Show Less
LibraryThing member kgramer
This is really interesting and moving addition to the WWII fiction genre. It was even more touching because it's based on a true story. It's hard to read knowing Lale and Gita, and all the others, really faced these horrors. At the same time, I didn't want to put it down because I wanted to find
Show More
out how they survived.
I read a review copy on Edelweiss.
Show Less
LibraryThing member amazzuca26
I loved this book even though it made my stomach turn and tears flow. The characters are beautiful inside and out. I was routing for Lale and Gita every page. A must read!
LibraryThing member wagner.sarah35
*I received this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.*

The thing that really set this novel apart from other fiction centered around the Holocaust is that it is closely based on a true story and actual interviews with Lale, the protagonist of this story. Lale was a Slovakian Jew transported to
Show More
Auschwitz in 1942 and he gained privileges in the camp by becoming the tattooist, the one who tattooed the incoming prisoners with the numbers assigned by the SS. While in the camps, he meets and falls in love with a fellow prisoner Gita and the two resolve to survive and build a future together. In many ways this is an endearing love story, but I did feel like the narrative got lost at times and in describing Lale's methods for smuggling food and other supplies into the camp, this book portrayed a slightly different picture of life in concentration camps than I'd encountered previously. Overall, an interesting book and definitely one to read for those interested in WWII fiction.
Show Less


Dublin Literary Award (Longlist — 2020)
Audie Award (Finalist — Fiction — 2019)
Indies Choice Book Award (Honor Book — 2019)
Australian Book Industry Awards (Shortlist — 2019)
BookTube Prize (Octofinalist — Fiction — 2019)
The Indie Book Award (Longlist — 2019)

Original publication date


Similar in this library

Page: 2.6811 seconds