When Lale Sokolov arrives in at Auschwitz-Birkenau, as a young man of twenty-four, his one aim is to survive the camp. He is fortunate as he is given a job with some status. He is the person tattooing numbers on the arms of those people destined for work – not the death chambers. It is a job he finds distasteful, apologising to his victims, but which gives him some status and privileges in the camp.
One of the girls whose arm he marks is destined to be the love of his life. Meeting Gita makes him more than determined to survive - whatever the cost. There are highs and lows in this story of love. Despite being of an optimistic nature, there are times when Lale becomes depressed and fearful. The description of Mengele is chilling and at several points in this camp of horrors, Lale faces danger and is close to death.
Lale’s biography is told in such a way that one feels close to him, sharing his feelings and experiences. It is a heartrending story but also uplifting as, despite being separated when the camp was liberated, Lale manages to find Gita and have a life together far away from the terrors they endured.
The author’s note at the end of Lale’s story is equally fascinating. Heather Morris describes how she became involved with Lale and there is a sense of true involvement in their relationship.
We have both visited Auschwitz-Birkenau. Having seen the awful conditions there and heard of the inhumanity occurring in that place makes this story more poignant. A recommended read.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris is published by Bonnier Zaffre.