Story not all hopelessness, despair
The Tattooist of Auschwitz By Heather Morris, Echo Publishing, $37
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It’s quite easy to become overwhelmed reading about the everyday realities of life under the cruel and merciless yoke of Nazism in their death camps like Auschwitz. There were times when I was reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz when that was so.
Lale’s story as the tattooist at the AuschwitzBirkenau could easily have been a story of despair, but he never loses hope, of survival in the first instance, and of his beloved Gita being united with each other, out of the day to day threat of being killed by the Nazis.
Heather Morris presents Lale’s story with both stark reality and with compassion. The story begins with Lale Sokolov, a young, handsome, well-dressed Jewish man, whose life is forever changed when, in 1942, he is drafted on to the first transport in his native Slovakia, en route to Auschwitz. With his bearing, attitude and strength of character he stands out. Somehow he captures the much coveted role of Tetovierer or tattooist, whose job it is to ensure that every new arrival to the camp is marked with their number tattooed onto their arm.
This position is one of privilege but also one which could provide some hope of survival. When he meets Gita he then has all the motivation he needs to survive the hell-hole, and begin a new life with her. Every day that mission is what keeps him alive, using his influence to help fellow prisoners where and when he can.
It’s a story of heart-break and it’s unforgettable. And it’s true. Heather Morris researched the story, but more telling she conducted years of interviews with Lale and other camp survivors. This book should be compulsory reading for the current generation so they fully understand what level of human suffering was dished out by the acolytes of Hitler’s Nazi Germany. —