Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

“If you wake up in the morning, it is a good day” – Heather Morris 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris 
288 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Published by: HarperCollins, 2018
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Reviewed by Indiana 

This historical novel follows the charming Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew who is imprisoned in Auschwitz starting in 1942. While there, he witnesses some of the most horrific events in history, including mass murder and torture. Through a well-timed meeting he’s able to become the tattooist of the camp, who is in charge of tattooing each prisoner as they are led into Auschwitz. He finds it despicable at first, remembering how he felt to have a number tattooed on him when he first arrived at the camp. 

However, he soon realizes that it’s a position of small but significant power and he uses it to help others in the camp, including Gita, a woman who he falls hopelessly in love with. 

Despite all the physical and psychological torture going on in the camp, Lale finds ways to do sweet things for Gita, slipping her a piece of riskily-obtained chocolate or stealing her away for just a few hours. 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is historical fiction, but what drew me in was that it’s based on the life of the real Lale Sokolov, who, in 2003, told writer Heather Morris that he needed someone to write his story, and write it quickly.

Morris’ book is a thought-provoking look into daily life in Auschwitz and how love pulled one couple through their years of imprisonment. Throughout the novel, I was surprised by just how generous the other prisoners were with one another, some risked their lives to take care of one another while they were sick or saved rations for one another. I hope that aspect of the book was fact rather than fiction. 

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