Tattooist of Auschwitz
by Morris, Heather






A novel based on the true story of an Auschwitz-Birkenau survivor traces the experiences of a Jewish Slovakian who uses his position as a concentration-camp tattooist to secure food for his fellow prisoners.





Australian author Morris' first novel is based heavily on the memories of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew who spent almost three years in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. For most of that time, he tattooed numbers onto the arms of fellow prisoners, one of whom he would later marry. Like Lale, Gita was Slovakian, and with some maneuvering by him, she was assigned to a relatively safe job, working as a secretary in the administrative building. Morris tells their story in rapidly moving present tense, in which the horrors of the camps contrast with the growing love between them. Lale comes across as a sharp-witted businessman with a touch of the con artist, smuggling out jewels and currency in sausages and chocolate. Although one might suspect that there's far more to his past than is revealed here, much of Lale's story's complexity makes it onto the page. And even though it's clear that Lale will survive, Morris imbues the novel with remarkable suspense. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.





An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp. Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn't flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis' bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale's hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen. The writing is merely serviceable, and one can't help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.






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