‘Er­rors’ in Holo­caust love story


A New Zealand au­thor has come un­der fire for ‘‘in­con­sis­tent’’ and ‘‘ex­ag­ger­ated’’ facts in her best­selling novel The Tat­tooist of Auschwitz.

The Auschwitz Memo­rial, in its his­tor­i­cal fact-check­ing re­view in Novem­ber, claimed Heather Mor­ris did not ver­ify some of the facts in her novel de­spite the aca­demic lit­er­a­ture be­ing pub­licly avail­able.

Mor­ris told Sun­day News her novel is based on Slo­vakian Jew Lale Sokolov’s per­sonal rec­ol­lec­tion and ex­pe­ri­ence, and ‘‘it is not an of­fi­cial his­tory’’.

How­ever, the Auschwitz Memo­rial said the book con­tained ‘‘nu­mer­ous er­rors and in­for­ma­tion in­con­sis­tent with the facts, as well as ex­ag­ger­a­tions, mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tions, and un­der­state­ments on which the over­all unau­then­tic pic­ture of the camp’s re­al­ity is built’’.

The Memo­rial told The Guardian that it de­cided to fact-check the book be­cause it pre­sented as ‘‘based on a true story’’ and most read­ers ‘‘do not have enough knowl­edge to dis­tin­guish facts and fic­tions here’’.

Mor­ris’ book is about Sokolov who finds love with a girl named Gita Fur­man he was tat­too­ing in the Auschwitz con­cen­tra­tion camp.

‘‘I am deeply hon­oured that Lale Sokolov chose to share his mem­o­ries with me. For three years I lis­tened as he spoke of his love for his wife, Gita . . . of their sur­vival in that ter­ri­ble place, and of the sub­se­quent life they spent to­gether,’’ she said.

‘‘I have car­ried that story for many years more, at­tempt­ing faith­fully and re­spect­fully to cap­ture its emo­tional weight and sig­nif­i­cance, and to ful­fil my prom­ise to Lale that his story would be told.’’

The Auschwitz Memo­rial’s six-page re­view found in­cor­rect routes taken to the con­cen­tra­tion camp and rooms on the premises, the num­ber given to Gita (34902), the fact she was given pen­decillin, and her camp fate, and con­cluded that the book should ‘‘be per­ceived as an im­pres­sion devoid of doc­u­men­tary value on the topic of Auschwitz, only in­spired by au­then­tic events’’.

Mor­ris said Sokolov had read a draft of the screen­play based on her novel be­fore he died and that he ‘‘was happy with what I had writ­ten’’.

Heather Mor­ris.

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