Story not all hope­less­ness, de­spair

Taupo & Turangi Weekender - - News - Tony Nielsen

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. —

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