The Tattooist of Auschwitz

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

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 over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocitie...

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Title:The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Author:Heather Morris
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Tattooist of Auschwitz Reviews

  • Fran

    The German government needed workers for their labor camps. In 1942, all families in Slovakia were ordered to provide a child eighteen or older for work detail or risk having the entire family sent to concentration camp. Lale Sokolov hoped that by going to Prague to await these instructions his family would be safe. He did not expect to be forced into a cattle wagon and be transported to Auschwitz. He was determined to do as he was told, reveal little about himself and always be observant.

    Lale's

    The German government needed workers for their labor camps. In 1942, all families in Slovakia were ordered to provide a child eighteen or older for work detail or risk having the entire family sent to concentration camp. Lale Sokolov hoped that by going to Prague to await these instructions his family would be safe. He did not expect to be forced into a cattle wagon and be transported to Auschwitz. He was determined to do as he was told, reveal little about himself and always be observant.

    Lale's upbeat manner as well as deference to his capo helped him secure the job of "Tetovierer", the tattooist. Rules: Look down. Be quick and efficiently tattoo the five numbers written on each person's piece of paper. In order to survive, he had to defile innocent people. The job of "Tetovierer" did have some perks. Lale was given his own room and increased food rations which he hid under his sleeve to distribute to others when possible. One day, Lale saw a girl with the darkest brown eyes. Gita. He made a vow to himself. He will leave Auschwitz a free man. He has just met the love of his life!

    Through cunning, luck and love, Lale is instrumental in setting up a barter system with paid bricklayers, Victor and Yuri. Food and medicine are exchanged for gems and currency smuggled out of the "Canada" building where some of Gita's friends work to empty the pockets of clothing from

    new arrivals at Auschwitz. Diamonds and chocolate entice an occasional guard or capo as well.

    "The Tattooist of Auschwitz" by Heather Morris is based upon the harrowing experiences of Lale Sokolov in Auschwitz and Birkenau. The chilling accounts of total disregard for life are occasionally tempered by selfless goodness and sacrifice without which Lale and Gita's love story could not have been told. This slim tome documents less familiar aspects of Holocaust literature. A must read.

    Thank you Bonnier Zaffre and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "The Tattooist of Auschwitz".

  • Angela M

    Right after I started reading this book there was a story on the local news about a new exhibit at the Jewish Community Center in our area. The exhibit highlights the Holocaust survivors from this area. At kiosks you can click on a name, read a bio but what struck me the most was that you can also see a video of the survivor telling their story. The utmost importance of these stories is reflected at the beginning of this book by author Graeme Simsion: "It reminds us that every one of the unimagi

    Right after I started reading this book there was a story on the local news about a new exhibit at the Jewish Community Center in our area. The exhibit highlights the Holocaust survivors from this area. At kiosks you can click on a name, read a bio but what struck me the most was that you can also see a video of the survivor telling their story. The utmost importance of these stories is reflected at the beginning of this book by author Graeme Simsion: "It reminds us that every one of the unimaginably large number of Holocaust victims was an individual with a unique story...." . It's really not possible to know what it was like in Auschwitz or the other camps no matter how much we read about the Holocaust, but it is through the stories of the survivors that we can try to understand, even if only a little . Heather Morris has retold the story of Lale Sokolov, a Jewish prisoner at Auschwitz who becomes the camp tattooist and while there finds the love of his life, Gita. This stared out as a screenplay she wrote as Lale told her his story and has been developed into this "novel".

    Lale from the first day he arrives in Auschwitz by cattle car, makes a vow to himself that he would survive this and after falling in love with Gita, he makes a promise to her that they will have a life together when they are out . That he can speak multiple languages saves Lale multiple times as well as connections made with other people imprisoned, with workers from the outside and even a German guard. With jewelry and cash gotten from the women who work in the building where belongings are sorted, Lale with his savvy, his courage and with some luck barters for time with Gita for the price of chocolate, a piece of sausage , a hunk of bread, a diamond or ruby. But he also provides as much food as he can to others. He helps many people along the way putting himself in danger each day as each day he tattoos numbers onto the arms of the new inhabitants. He does seem to have an existence in some ways better than most in the camp and better than when he first arrived until he is caught with the jewels. It is obvious that he survives, so there's no spoiler here that Lale continues to have the capacity for hope and love that seems impossible as he endures.

    This is a story told with love about courage in the face of the horrors of the camps and loss of family, courage sustained by the strength of the human spirit and it's a love story that I'll never forget. There is not much more I can say other than what Lale himself tells Morris - that he wanted his story recorded so "It would never happen again."

    I received an advanced copy of this book from Bonnie Zaffre through NetGalley.

  • Miriam Smith

    Considering "The Tattooist of Auschwitz" is a harrowing true story, it was truly compelling and utterly unputdownable. It's without a doubt one of only a few books that will stay with me a very long time, it's that unforgettable and one that keeps you thinking about the story well after you've put it down.

    Lale Sokolov is a well dressed, charming ladies' man - however he is also a Jew. On arrival at Auschwitz in 1942 he immediately stands out to his fellow prisoners who save his life when he tak

    Considering "The Tattooist of Auschwitz" is a harrowing true story, it was truly compelling and utterly unputdownable. It's without a doubt one of only a few books that will stay with me a very long time, it's that unforgettable and one that keeps you thinking about the story well after you've put it down.

    Lale Sokolov is a well dressed, charming ladies' man - however he is also a Jew. On arrival at Auschwitz in 1942 he immediately stands out to his fellow prisoners who save his life when he takes ill. In the camp he is put to work in the privileged position of the 'Tatowierer' - the tattooist - to mark his fellow prisoners as they arrive in camp. One of them is a girl called Gita who captures his heart immediately. Given a reason to survive Lale uses his position for the greater good even through struggles and extreme suffering, with the hope of one day being with Gita forever, outside of the camp.

    Although upsetting, saddening and at times quite unimaginable, there is such a beautiful love story at the heart of the tale that you can't help smiling at. I immediately took to all the real life characters, they were excellently portrayed whether good or bad and could imagine the whole true scenario with such clarity.

    The author Heather Morris took several years to write Lale's story in her book with the input of the main protagonist himself and even becoming a very good friend with him. She has ultimately written a story Lale would be very proud of and which tells of his and Gita's tale of wanting to be together through one of the worst and sickening periods of our history with the utmost care and consideration. Compassionately written with sensitivity, its emotive, thought provoking, awe inspiring and certainly puts your own everyday problems into perspective.

    This book wasn't as brutal and as hard hitting as some holocaust books I've read although equally saddening, therefore I feel this could be read by slightly younger readers without offending or upsetting.

    I really can't recommend this stunning book highly enough, it a definite must read for 2018 and it gets a fantastic 5 stars for a heart wrenching unforgettable read.

  • Debra

    I'll never hear Yiddish again....

    I'll never go to the German Consulate with her again...

    I’m gutted reading this book. To some I have shared that my family's "MA" was in Auschwitz (everyone called her MA - her daughters, her grandchildren, her great grandchildren, her friends, etc.). She used to say "I have lost everything that can ever be lost “and "I have given everything can that ever be given". She passed away in 2017 at the age of 95. We just had her headstone unveiling. This was probably no

    I'll never hear Yiddish again....

    I'll never go to the German Consulate with her again...

    I’m gutted reading this book. To some I have shared that my family's "MA" was in Auschwitz (everyone called her MA - her daughters, her grandchildren, her great grandchildren, her friends, etc.). She used to say "I have lost everything that can ever be lost “and "I have given everything can that ever be given". She passed away in 2017 at the age of 95. We just had her headstone unveiling. This was probably not the best book for me to read at this time - but then again maybe it was...In the last years of her life, I would go with her to the German Consulate to prove she was still alive, so she could continue receiving her reparation checks. She would get dressed in her best outfit and walk in proudly to announce she was still alive. There used to be a long line of survivors waiting to go in, the last time I went with her, we were the only ones in the waiting room. I used to dread going there with her. It was a production. Days before she would get her hair washed and set, the day of she would get up early and do her makeup and fuss over her outfit. I would always say "why do you dress up to go there?" She would always say "I am proud of who I am." and tell me not to embarrass her by wearing my "schmata" and would it kill me to put on a little red lipstick. Then she would announce to everyone in the room that I was her granddaughter. Now I will never go again. Last year we had our first Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas without her (I have a half Jewish - half Christian family). There are not many survivors left in the world which is why I am glad that books like this exist.

    "To Save one is to save the world."

    This book is based on a true story. I always love books based on true stories. In many ways, I think they are the best kind. I also love the pictures of Lale and Gita Sokolov. Lale told his story over the course of three years to the Author. Lale became the Tatowierer "Tattooist" of Auschwitz and Birkenau. Being the tattooist gives him special perks - more rations, better sleeping conditions, ability to move around the camp more freely. He also was able to exchange the money and prized possessions of those who died in the gas chambers for food and medicine. He was generous and provided for many. He saved lives and I wonder how many survived due to him acquiring medicine and extra food for them.

    While giving a tattoo, he meets Gita and feels an instant attraction to her. This book is not only a book about survival during the bleakest of times, it is about triumph of the human spirit, about being pushed to the breaking point but never breaking, about love, about compassion for others, about hope, about losing your faith and about never losing your faith. It also shows brutality, hatred, and evil but what I hope people take away is the compassion, strength, dignity and resilience that Lale and so many others named in this book showed. This book is about a lot of things but mainly one man's inner strength which allowed him to go on, to never give up, to have compassion for others, who risked his life many times to help others. During the darkest times, there will always be those who shine and Lale Sokolov was one of those.

    Like many survivors, Lale and Gita moved around until they found their place in Australia, began a family and lead a happy and successful life. Lale proved to have "nine lives" and I was happy to see that he was able to prosper and be reconnected with Gita after the war.

    I thought this book was well written and I was sucked me into Lale's world. Although there are scenes of violence and murder/killings, they are not incredibly graphic. With any book dealing with the Holocaust, you know it is going to be sad and scenes are going pull at your heartstrings. This one will as well. I think most will really enjoy this book and hopefully learn a few things. For instance, I always thought the tattoos were put on using crude tattoo machines/guns similar to the one used when I got a tattoo. I was wrong. My family member never talked about it. I wonder did Lale give Ma her tattoo? Who knows.?

    I think reading the Author's note at the end of the book is beneficial. Again, there are pictures of Lale and Gita there. It was nice to put faces with the names. When reading books such as this, I think most readers will wonder, could they have survived. I believe most of us will never know what we are capable of until we are placed to the test. God willing, none of us are ever placed to this test.

    4.5 stars

    I received a copy of this book from Bonner Publishing Australia and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    See more of my reviews at

  • Bookdragon Sean

    The year is 2018 and it gladdens me that books like this are still being written. It’s important that we never forget Auschwitz and that we never forget the war crimes Nazi Germany committed. Why? Because we need to know and understand what humanity is capable of, we need to know what extreme hate looks like so we can work towards building a world free from it. This is one of our darkest hours, and we need to remember it.

    This i

    The year is 2018 and it gladdens me that books like this are still being written. It’s important that we never forget Auschwitz and that we never forget the war crimes Nazi Germany committed. Why? Because we need to know and understand what humanity is capable of, we need to know what extreme hate looks like so we can work towards building a world free from it. This is one of our darkest hours, and we need to remember it.

    This is a true story. The characters were real people. They were plucked from the mind of a dying old man (who is also the protagonist) who wanted his story to be heard by the world. It took him over seventy years to muster the courage to tell it, Morris is the instrument of his words. So this isn’t a book that dramatises the events or capitalises on the situation in order to sell a thrilling piece of fiction; it simply portrays the horrors as they were: it doesn’t need to be exaggerated because it is in itself so horrifyingly real. We all know about Auschwitz, though there is something intimate about this particular story.

    Lale was the man responsible for tattooing identity numbers onto new entries into Auschwitz. It’s a role he hated, one where he felt like a collaborator as he defiled the bodies of innocent with the ink of the enemy, though it is also a role that afforded him many benefits. He was given a position of trust and was able to move around the camps at will. As such he smuggled in extra food rations for those that needed it most. He brought them medicine and aid whenever he could, consolation for living apart from those that suffered the most.

    The narrative was incredibly tense because death was never far away. All it took was one annoyed guard to raise his rifle and pull his trigger, and that’s it: it’s all over. Death came randomly. There was no system, just merciless killing at the whim of the oppressors. Doctor Mendel (Doctor Death) was the best example. He was an evil man, cold and fear inducing. Whenever he entered a scene the trepidation of the characters was palpable. It’s like the temperature dropped. Morris did wonders to capture the presence of such a callous man.

    With all darkness, there comes light. In the depths of the death camp there is also life, love and family: three things we all need to stay alive. Despite how cruelly the Jews were treated, despite how far they were objectified and made to feel less than human, they still managed to cling onto their identities and the very things that make them who they are. Hope endured for some, hope that they would some day be liberated and have the opportunity to begin a new life. And that’s exactly what makes the hero of the novel so compelling. He never looses his optimism. He never stops trying to help people.

    His love for his wife Gita kept him from dropping dead. And it wasn’t until she died in real life, many years later, that he released their story. And it’s very powerful one.

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  • Mary Beth *Traveling Sister*

    4.5 stars!!

    This is a historical fiction novel based on a true story. Lale Sokolov tells his story based on true events. He became the main tattooist of Aushwitz and falls in love at first sight with Gita who he first met tattooing her arm. He tattoos all the new prisoners with their identification numbers. Lale is a Jew. He is on the first transport of men from Slovakia to Auschwitz in 1942. The concentration camp was very horrifying. Lale did have some special privileges, since he was the tatto

    4.5 stars!!

    This is a historical fiction novel based on a true story. Lale Sokolov tells his story based on true events. He became the main tattooist of Aushwitz and falls in love at first sight with Gita who he first met tattooing her arm. He tattoos all the new prisoners with their identification numbers. Lale is a Jew. He is on the first transport of men from Slovakia to Auschwitz in 1942. The concentration camp was very horrifying. Lale did have some special privileges, since he was the tattoist. He had lots of freedom than the other prisoners. He was so brave and had lots of courage. He would exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he was caught he would of been killed. Many prisoners owed him their survival. He was a leader among the other prisoners.

    Their are some graphic scenes that are a little dark. This book stands out from other Holocaust related novels. It is an emotional read. The Nazi guards are monsters, they kill and hurt human beings. Lale was determined to survive. This is a terrible story but it also is a story of hope and courage.

    I really did love this story. It was almost like reading a memoir, but a little different than a memoir. This story is an emotional read, but I also found it uplifting at times.

    The Holocaust was horrific and couldn't believe all the awful things that happened in the concentration camp. I would say this is a safer read than other Holocaust novels.

    I really loved Lale's true story. I am so happy that the author spent a lot of time with him, to tell his story.

    She really did an amazing job on his character. All the characters were very well done and made this novel come alive. I loved the love story between Lale and Gita and how they fall in love at first sight. I love a romance in a novel only when there is lots of suspense. Its always the suspense that I am looking for and this one has ok

    plenty of it.

    I felt so sad for Cilka, and everything she went through. I also felt sad for Leon. There are some scenes that are graphic but this is the Holocaust, a horrifying time and as I mentioned before this is a safer read than other Holocaust books.

    I could not put this book down. It was a page turner. I loved the writing style. I am really loving historical novels more and more because I think they are needed because we need to remember what happened so that history isn't forgotten.

    This was a Traveling Sister read and I loved reading this with them and it was a wonderful discussion. This is a great book to do as a group read.

    I want to thank Netgalley, the publisher and Heather Morris for a copy of this book in exchange for a honest review.

  • jessica

    what a comfort it is to know that, even in the most desperate and tragically unfathomable of circumstances, love and hope are possible and can be found.

    this was a truly touching story about lale and gita and how the love they found for each other in auschwitz helped them survive. the story is based on true events, information gathered from lales interviews with the author. lale waited until after the death of gita to open up about his experiences due to fear of being perceived as a nazi sympath

    what a comfort it is to know that, even in the most desperate and tragically unfathomable of circumstances, love and hope are possible and can be found.

    this was a truly touching story about lale and gita and how the love they found for each other in auschwitz helped them survive. the story is based on true events, information gathered from lales interviews with the author. lale waited until after the death of gita to open up about his experiences due to fear of being perceived as a nazi sympathiser. but goodness, this was a story that needed to be told.

    and i feel rather heartless giving a book with that sort of gravity anything less than 5 stars, but i was very let down when it came to the writing and the way the story was told. i would have much rather heard the story told from lale himself, as i dont think heather morris did his story justice. the writing was very flat and didnt evoke the sense of emotion i would have hoped for from a story as memorable as this.

    regardless, i am still grateful i read this, for there were so many valuable lessons within this book. lessons on what it means to be human, how far one would go to survive, how love can be found anywhere, and most importantly, the power of hope.

  • Tammy

    I recall, as a child, accompanying one or the other of my parents to our family jeweler countless times. It seemed as if some piece always needed to be repaired or purchased for one occasion or another. For my tenth birthday I received a small sapphire and diamond ring which was too large and needed to be resized. One day after school off we went to see Marty and Irv. It was an unseasonably warm fall day and Irv had his shirtsleeves rolled up. When he placed his arm on the glass countertop, I sa

    I recall, as a child, accompanying one or the other of my parents to our family jeweler countless times. It seemed as if some piece always needed to be repaired or purchased for one occasion or another. For my tenth birthday I received a small sapphire and diamond ring which was too large and needed to be resized. One day after school off we went to see Marty and Irv. It was an unseasonably warm fall day and Irv had his shirtsleeves rolled up. When he placed his arm on the glass countertop, I saw the tattooed numbers on his arm for the very first time. I felt, also for the first time, a cold clenching my stomach. That very day, at the age of ten, I had watched Night and Fog as part of my fifth grade curriculum and my physical reaction was the painful shock of recognition. It was disturbing to me that this kind and gentle man had been subjected to and survived the death camps. I was raised to be a polite child so I didn’t say anything but I do remember having a serious conversation with my mother about it on our way home.

    This experience, which is still so vivid to me, is one of the many reasons I find it difficult to rate ‘based on true” accounts about the holocaust. What I will say about this book is that it tells a story of hope amid horror. I will also say that the writing is sophomoric. However, I do think this is a book that is well suited for young teens as an introduction to this very dark part of history.

  • abby

    There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Holocaust fiction books in the English language alone. This is not the one to read.

    This kind of book is hard to rate. It's based on the true story of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew who volunteered to go to Auschwitz to save his older brother and, through a combination of true grit and luck, he's able to survive and even fall in love. Who wants to give the story of a Holocaust survivor just two stars? Isn't that a bit heartless?

    But it's not subject of the b

    There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Holocaust fiction books in the English language alone. This is not the one to read.

    This kind of book is hard to rate. It's based on the true story of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew who volunteered to go to Auschwitz to save his older brother and, through a combination of true grit and luck, he's able to survive and even fall in love. Who wants to give the story of a Holocaust survivor just two stars? Isn't that a bit heartless?

    But it's not subject of the book I'm rating. This book isn't well written. I wasn't surprised to learn that Heather Morris is a screenwriter, because she relies heavily on dialogue here and really struggles with prose (although, to be honest, the dialog leaves a lot to be desired, as well). Scenes change in the matter of a sentence, the dialogue often seems only broken with stage directions. There's no atmospheric build up. There's no sense of tension or urgency or terror. It was all very one-note. The characters, even Lale himself, are flat and poorly developed. The whole book felt very amateurish, and I cannot recommend it.

    I received an advance copy of this book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.

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