The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was pleasantly surprising. I've read and heard quite a few books and stories, and even an eyewitness account, about the atrocities that occurred in the concentration camps, but this story was riveting. And the fact that a first-time author wrote this book is quite impressive.
Heather Morris interviewed the two main characters for years, gathered tons of information, and curated the events to be put into story form. It was first written as a screenplay, then the novel. I don't think the screenplay was ever published or utilized.
This is the story of Lale Eisenberg, a Slovak Jew from Bratislavia, whose heritage causes him to be deported to a concentration camp, namely, Birkenau. When the SS realize Lale speaks many languages and can converse with many nationalities, he is assigned the job of tattooist at Birkenau and Auschwitz. This role comes with privileges which make him uneasy. He doesn't want to be seen as a traitor, but he was given no choice to tattoo people, who, like himself, are prisoners.
One day at the camp he is ordered to tattoo numbers on female prisoners. This is when he meets Gita Furman, another Jew from Slovakia, although he doesn't know her name at that point. Lale and Gita fall in love. Through their eyes, particularly Lale's, we get a glimpse into daily life at the camps from the time they are first being built all the way until the prisoners were disbursed. I don't want to spoil anything for you, so no more plot details will be included here.
Lale later changed his name to Sokolov, his sister's married name. The afterword of the book is written by Gary Sokolov, Lale and Gita's son. And while some of the details may be inaccurate, it is Lale and Gita's love story that is the focus of the novel. The author used dramatic license when describing some events and situations, but it shows how a person can not only survive a horrible event, but thrive in spite of it.
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