Librarian's Choice: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Selected by Eve at Central Library

The Tattooist of Auschwitz Heather Morris

Title: The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Author: Heather Morris

This novel is a compilation from Heather Morris’ interviews with the real-life Holocaust survivor Ludwig Sokolov, who we read as Lale Sokolov. Lale is 26, a Slovakian Jew who is forced onto a train in 1942 by Nazi SS officers during WWII. Destination? Auschwitz II concentration camp.

Auschwitz stripped prisoners of their dignity, families, freedom, and even their names were traded for numbers. They were treated like vermin slaves, anxiously wondering when death may come knocking. Lale is liked and respected by his fellow prisoners and finds himself replacing the recently missing Tätowierer, whose job is to tattoo the prisoners with their numbers as they arrive at Auschwitz. This role gives Lale the opportunity to smuggle goods and food to the starving prisoners. Working as the tattooist, one day a train of women arrive at the camp, but one woman particularly catches Lale’s heart, Gita. From that moment on Lale is devoted to protecting Gita; trading jewels with local villagers for medicine when she falls ill with typhus. After meeting most Sundays, Lale vows that once he and Gita leave Auschwitz he will marry her. Lale witnesses many atrocious scenes in his time at Auschwitz and somehow escapes death more than once. A novel full of raw brutality, yet full of beauty and hope. Will Lale survive Auschwitz? Will Lale fulfil his vow to marry Gita? Or will they all die there?

Style and Themes

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a fast-paced novel documenting Lale’s encounters with violence, alliances, and more during his time in Auschwitz. A theme found throughout the novel is religious diversity, as the Nazis targeted the Jewish race during WWII. Lale himself does not seem to follow his people’s religion closely but it is present throughout the novel with some of the other characters. Another theme is courage because Lale often puts himself in danger for his fellow prisoners. This meant Lale having to be careful who he trusted and hiding his traded goods because it was against the rules of the camp. A key tone is the romance between Lale and Gita teaching us that love can transcend environments so hellishly inhumane as Auschwitz.