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Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Title: The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Author: Heather Morris
Year Published: 2018

Genre: Adult historical fiction
Pages: 257
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)Poland and Slovakia

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): 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 at 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 fo 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.

Review: I have read a lot of Holocaust literature and first hand accounts and this one has added a new dimension to my understanding of the time. It has a unique perspective, one that I hadn't read before.

I knew that Auschwitz-Birkenau prisoners were tattooed, but I had never read anything about who did the tattooing. In that position, Lale was given much more freedom and access to all parts of the camps as well as other people (workers from the village, for example). With his outgoing and charming personality, Lale was able to set up an elaborate trading scheme to help other prisoners. This true story showed me a different side of the camps: compassion, an economy, and love. However, Lale also witnessed Mengele's work as well as that of other SS officers. 

I don't want to give away too much, but obviously, Lale survives because we have his story (while this is a novel, it is based on his true story that he told the author). His post-war story and that of his girlfriend, Gita, are also astonishing. Again, their stories are different from others I have read.

If you have an interest in World War II and the Holocaust and want to read a story that you know has a happy ending, this is definitely worth the read.

Challenges for which this counts: 

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