The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
“If you wake up in the morning, it is a good day.”
A historical fiction based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz against all odds. In this hell, Lale was assigned the job of Tattoowierer; the job of tattooing his fellow victims' arms in permanent ink creating what would be one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Every prisoner became only the number tattooed on their arms, nothing more!
He used his position and somewhat freedom of movement to smuggle food to other victims - keeping them alive - by exchanging jewels and money taken from murdered Jews. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival. Slowly working his way, saving many and doing what he has to do to survive, Lale fell in love.
I'm sure there are many Holocaust survival stories out there, and it's definite that there will always be a new story to tell. Yet, this was very special and memorable because of Lale's incredible zest and hope for life. Right in the middle of hell, he woke up every day with hope. It's truly indescribable.
This book took over my life with only a few pages in. I was enthralled by the details, captured by Lale's character and I just couldn't put it down. For two days, morning and night, it was all I could think about. And maybe that's not going to change for a while; I don't mind really. Heather Morris managed to outstandingly and truthfully capture Lale's story of survival; I can't even comprehend how she even downplayed some of the event's atrocities at his own request to not shock the readers. I was shocked!
I think no matter how many historical fiction we read, or even dive into the most deep WWII stories, it will always be impossible and beyond our reach to truly grasp the horrors, cruelty and brutality many survived. This story comes somewhat close to making you feel it and take the first steps towards understanding it.
“To save one is to save the world,”
This story made me feel a lot of things; from the very first chapter you get thrown right in the middle of it. Lale being transferred to the camp, lost and crammed in a wagon with dozens for days. It shows you how the enemy stripped them away of their humanity; that was the first in waging the war. It was hard reading along, watching their dignity slipping away and their survival instincts kicking in forcing them to accept the bare minimal. Starvation came next, degrading, beating up, bullying and torture went right along with it. I was in awe that throughout it all, Lale maintained his incredible zest for life. He knew what was in store for him, and he was headstrong on surviving all of it. It's truly incredible that amidst the hell of that camp, he remained hopeful. Not only this but he did all he can to pass on this hope to others. And among the death, pain and cruelty; a beautiful love story flourished and strong friendships were born.
“remember the small things, and the big things will work themselves out.”
It was like reading a memoir, and that transfixed me on its own. I could hear Lale's voice in my head. Telling me his story with patience and pain towards having to relive it but with a smile and hope that he's telling the world about Gita - his true love and light amidst the darkness. I loved how the story balanced between life and death, survival and hopelessness, love and hate. It threads the story of men doing everything they can to survive, and women being subjected to horrors and taking it to survive.
I couldn't comprehend the things that Gita and her friends - especially Cilka - had to endure and many others like them to survive this hell. And on the other hand, it horrified me what torture the men suffered and how every shred of dignity and humanity they had collapsed under the cruelty of SS officers and generals.
This is one of the books that will make you see things differently and understand them on a whole new level. It's going to stay with you, invade your mind and thoughts and you're going to love every moment of it.