Published September 4th 2018 by Harper
I finished listening to this book in a day and when it was over, I was trying to figure out how to review this story. It is a fictionalized account of the true story of Lale Sokolov, told to the author in the final days of his life. Being based on a true story, it is hard to rate. I am not rating Lale’s story which was quite interesting, sad and horrible at times, but it is Lale’s story. What I need to do is move beyond that and rate and review the writing of that story. This could have been a five star read for me based on the story alone, but alas, I can only give it 3.5 stars.
Lale was a young Jewish man from Slovakia, with much to look forward to. In an effort to save the rest of his family, he is taken to Auschwitz, where he becomes the tattooist. He is responsible to tattoo the numbers on the prisoners as they arrive at Auschwitz. It turns out this is a prestigious job in the camp and he gets certain privileges, that give him the opportunity to help other prisoners. When he falls for a young female prisoner, he decides he will do whatever it takes to survive and save Gita. The decisions Lale had to make were not easy, but he always tried to keep the saving of human life in the forefront.
With all the emotional content in this story, I was surprised that I did not feel more emotional while reading this book. The writing is less emotional than some, a kind of storytelling tone, which I guess makes sense as the author was telling someone else’s story. I wanted to find out what was going to happen in the story, so continued to read the book, but didn’t connect to Lale or Gita as much as I would have liked. Having said that, I admired the people in this story. They were strong, honest and were willing to sacrifice themselves to save others. Lale often put his neck on the line to help others which was extremely heroic. Lale does survive the war, but you will need to read this book to find out how this happens and what happened after the camps were liberated. The epilogue was great as it let us know what happened to the other principals in the story. The Afterword is a must read as well. Overall, I am glad I read this book. Lale’s story is an important one, not only for the reader, but I am sure it was for Lale to tell. I recommend this book for lovers of WWII stories and historical fiction/memoirs/based on a true story genres. I received a copy of this book from the publisher upon request. The ratings, ideas and opinions shared are my own.
About the Book: In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.
Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.
One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.
A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.
About the Author: I am a Native of New Zealand now resident in Australia, working in a large public hospital in Melbourne. For several years I studied and wrote screenplays, one of which was optioned by an academy award winning Screenwriter in the U.S. In 2003, I was introduced to an elderly gentleman “who might just have a story worth telling”. The day I met Lale Sokolov changed my life, as our friendship grew and he embarked on a journey of self scrutiny, entrusting the inner most details of his life during the Holocaust. I originally wrote Lale’s story as a screenplay – which ranked high in international competitions – before reshaping it into my debut novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.