June 13

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

This is the story of Lale Sokolov, the Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist and the woman he loved.

It is one of the most powerful books I have read for a really long time and it sounds stupid to say I loved it because how can you love a soul destroying story like the title suggests?  But I realised I loved it because I loved Lale, I loved his love Gitta and I loved every other poor soul trapped in the sheer hell of Auschwitz.

If you want to read about the human spirit, this one is for you and is perhaps the best self-help book you could read if that is your thing.  This book is so confronting, so heartbreaking, so beautiful, so despairing, so dark, so compassionate and so uplifting that you close it feeling like you have had some kind of ‘experience’.  Even writing this review, I swear I can feel my blood slow.  Reading about the ash filled skies, the human cargo heaving from the transports, the showers which saw no-one return, the gravest brutalities every damn day, well let’s say you do not go unchanged – even when you know the story.

Lale Sokolov was one of the first jews on the trains from Slovakia to Auschwitz in 1942.  He is an impressive man – well dressed, charming, contained – and enters the concentration camp alone but luck finds him and he ends up being placed as a tattooist.  It comes with some benefits but not without trauma.

His job is simple – to mark each of his fellow prisoners forever with a number using a length of wood with a needle embedded in it and afterwards, green powered ink rubbed into the deep wound.

One arm he must tattoo belongs to Gitta, a young woman who he falls madly in love with and who becomes his raison detre  – he lives only to keep her alive.

The book chronicles how they survive the sourest of times and it is based on years and years of interviews  the author conducted with Lale after he eventually settled in Australia post war.

This is a remarkable true story.  A story of love set against a background of pure hate.  It doesn’t make for easy reading, but it is powerful and it is unforgettable in the same way the movie A Beautiful Life was.

This book will stay with me, I guess you could say it is tattooed in my soul. That is how it feels anyway…..

But this just just my 2 cents worth.