LHL BOOK REVIEWS
by Cullen Haynes
'The Tattooist of Auschwitz', Heather Morris - Non-Fiction - WW2/Human Spirit/Love
For those that have read 'Schindler's List', 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas', and 'The Man who Broke into Auschwitz', here comes a heart-breaking true story of the candlelight of goodness shining through despite the most foreboding darkness.
In 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau to the ominous welcome, in German, above the gates 'Arbeit Macht Frei' - ‘Work will set you free.’
Because of his talent for speaking multiple languages, his captors decide to put him to work as the Tätowierer, which is the German word for tattooist and is tasked with etching numbers into his fellow victims arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust.
Lale was imprisoned in what can only be described as hell on earth for 2 and half years, during which, he experienced horrific barbarism and atrocities while having to serve some of the cruellest architects of The Final Solution, Rudolf Hoess and Dr. Josef Mengele.
Yet, through it all, there were still moments of compassion and bravery, using his position of privilege to exchange money and jewels from those that were murdered, for food to help keep his fellow inmates live.
Lale, prisoner 32407, sees a terrified and shaking young girl waiting in line to have her number 34902 tattooed on her arm. For Lale, a jack-the-lad, a dandy, and a bit of chancer professes, it was love at first sight. Her name is Gita, and he vows that one day they will escape and he'll marry her.
"I Tattooed a number on her arm. She tattooed her name on my heart"
So begins one of the most courageous, life affirming, unforgettable and human stories of the Holocaust; the enduring love story of the Tattooist of Auschwitz.
Moving to Australia, raising their family and many happy years later, Gita sadly died in 2003. It was her death and Lale's need to join her that pushed him to work with Kiwi author Heather Morris, and for 3 years put down to paper his story.
You walk away from this book with a greater appreciation of your life; as Lale himself says "If you wake up in the morning, it is a good day".
On the morning of his funeral, Morris noted, "it was a not a good day for me, but it would have ben for him. He was now with Gita".