THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ by Heather Morris is a riveting novel based on the true life painful memories of Lale Sokolov, a Jewish tattooist. Snatched from his home in Slovakia by the Nazis he was transported to and imprisoned in a world enclosed in barbed wire fences and abject cruelty. Because Lale was fluent in five languages the camp’s SS hierarchy appointed him the Tätowierer of Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was awarded that ‘privileged’ position because he was multilingual and could give the victims instructions in their native tongue, thus making their gruesome process go more smoothly. The Nazis were as well-organized as they were cruel but as a tattooist it gave Lale a temporary reprieve from his intended fate.
Lale obediently and routinely went about his daily charge of numbering those whose days were numbered. Colorful family names were recorded in ledgers as dreary soulless numbers. On one occasion he was presented with the outstretched arm of a terrified young woman named Gita. As he had done thousands of times before to others, Lale robotically scored Gita’s numbers 34902 into her arm in blue indelible ink. It was only then that he gazed into her soft brown eyes and was instantly smitten with her.
Heartened by an immediate and unquenchable love for Gita he managed never to lose his will to survive nor relinquish his humanity. His determination to prevail was contagious and affected Gita as well. Unremitting love for each other buoyed their spirits and bolstered their resolve to endure the deluge of cruelty engulfing them. Theirs is a story of love, compassion and kindness enacted upon a stage illuminated by prowling searchlights instead of the glow of footlights. It is a story difficult to read and a book hard to put down.