Danny Bloom
I seek the truth wherever it lies.

Did ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ author have an obligation to tell the truth?

An Australian academic named Fleur Morrison is one of the first literary critics in her country to begin to ask serious questions about the controversy surrounding the publication of a Holocaust sex-and-romance novel titled “The Tattooist of Auschwitz,” which has, beyond expectations when first released, become an international bestseller.

Written by Australian screenplay writer Heather Morris in 2004 and later turned into a kind of breathless, panting chick-lit Holocaust story which one wag in New York has already dubbed the “50 Shades of Grey” of Holocaust dreck, the novel was naively published in Australia by Echo Press in hopes of making an impact on female readers and sloppily-edited by a newcomer to the publishing world named Angela Meyer.

Sales of the “historical fiction” romance have gone through the roof, with over 1 million copies in print and in the needy hands of readers worldwide.

But according to Morrision, the rules of writing historical fiction are murky.

One reader has claimed that the book served a valuable purpose in highlighting the suffering of Jewish inmates in Auschwitz and in encouraging young readers born long after the war to find out more about what actually happened.

One naive reader in Ireland called Lali a “prisoner of war” in her rave review of the novel, not realizing that the Jews of Germany and Poland were not prisoners of war but ”inmates” of a brutal and ruthless system of dehumanizing those poor souls thrown tragically into Nazi-designed gas chambers and ordinary rural roadside ditches.

“Personally, I think any book that gets people thinking about the impacts of genocide, and perhaps sparks people to want to dig deeper is a good thing,” another reader wrote online.

So in the end, what do authors think about their responsibility to the truth when they are writing historical fiction? If you who are reading this post here are an author of historical fiction, what do you think? The comment box at the end of this article is a place to leave your opinion, pro or con or in-between.

Each genre and form of writing has its own challenges, and in a genre like historical fiction, writers must grapple with their own ideas about their responsibility to truth.

Morrison’s conclusion?

“While I might be tempted to support any claims that ‘the story’ is most important, above all, it is also hard to ignore those who represent the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum in Poland as they comment publicly this month on the impact of Morris’ novel on the reality of those whose stories were being told,” Morrison says in characterizing how she feels about the problematic status of  the severely-debunked “The Tattooist of Auschwitz.”

About the Author
Danny Bloom is editor of The Cli-Fi Report at www.cli-fi.net. Danny graduated from Tufts University in Boston in 1971 with a major in Yiddish Literature. A newspaper editor and reporter since his days in Alaska, Japan and Taiwan, he has lived and worked in 14 countries and speaks French, Japanese and Chinese. He hopes to live until 2032, when his tombstone will read "I came, I saw, I ate cho-dofu."
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