I tattooed a number on her arm. She tattooed her name on my heart.
In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust.
Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer – it was love at first sight. And he was determined not only to survive himself, but to ensure this woman, Gita, did, too.
So begins one of the most life-affirming, courageous, unforgettable and human stories of the Holocaust: the love story of the tattooist of Auschwitz.
My review: 4 out of 5 stars
I finished The Tattooist of Auschwitz last night and the overwhelming emotion I am feeling right now is being so very grateful. Thank you Lale (the main hero in the book) for choosing to share his remarkable journey with us; and thank you Heather for taking on the task of retelling this part of the history and pushing it through so everyone of us is able to read Lale and Gita’s story.
I have read my fair share of historical fiction, and when I say “fair share” I mean A LOT, because historical fiction is my favourite genre to read. One of the reasons I love reading these books is because I learn something new every single time. It is heart breaking to say the least but at the same time it makes me feel emotions I can never truly experience from reading other books.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on a true story. Lale, a Jew in Slovakia, got transported to Auschwitz, Poland, in 1942. The first day he got there, he made a vow to himself that he was going to survive this and came out of the concentration camp alive. He became the Tattooist whose job was to tattoo the number on the arm of whoever got sent to the camp. And that number became their identities and their whole life. One day, Lale looked up from the number he just tattooed on the arm of a young lady Gita, and he fell in love. The story followed in the next few years how Lale did everything he could to survive and also did everything he could to help other prisoners; and how the love between Lale and Gita blossomed and gave them hope that one day they would get out of Auschwitz alive.
We know what happened during those years in Auschwitz and across Europe to Jewish people and other minority religions. We read them in books, see them on TV, watch them in movies, but while reading The Tattooist, it never fails to still shock me to my core of the magnitude of what actually happened in those camps. I don’t think we will ever fully comprehend it and will never truly understand the horror, absolute horror that occurred in those chambers and fields.
The book is surprisingly very easy read. I read it in one sitting and in one day as I was so engrossed in what was going to happen to Lale and Gita. I have to say Lale is a very intelligent and charming character, I do believe his charms and quick wit helped him greatly during all those years. I fell just a bit more in love with Lale the more I read. From time to time I had to stop and remind myself that I was reading a true story; the events in the book actually happened to Lale and I still could not truly believe it. There was one sentence, one sentence that I believe will stay with me for the rest of my life. This sentence is a reminder of the horror, the despair, the heart-breaks, the devastation; it also is a reminder that human beings really are remarkable, we can and will survive from the most traumatic event and hopes and loves are the ones that propel us forward and triumph. “I bet you’re the only Jew who ever walked into an oven and then walked back out of it”.
The only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars is because the book was written in a matter of fact way. It seems more like a memoir than a fiction. There are some places I would love it to have a few more details and dive in with more depth of the emotional turmoil the characters were experiencing. So, in some places I do feel it lacks the emotional impact it should have on readers while reading a subject matter like this. It has so much more potential but again I thoroughly enjoyed this book and being grateful that we are able to read a story of two ordinary people’s extraordinary journey.
Thank you so much Bonnier Zaffre Books and Emily Burns for sending me this advanced proof copy. I thoroughly enjoyed it so very much.