Danny Bloom
I seek the truth wherever it lies.

Veracity of ‘Tattooist of Auschwitz’ challenged by Auschwitz Museum in Poland

A bestselling novel about the Holocaust published in Australia in 2018 has generated a strong backlash from readers around the world, and most importantly from the Auschwitz Museum in Poland, which maintains an internet and Twitter presence online.

After many people, Jewish and non-Jewish, sent in messages to the museum concerning the veracity and controversy over Heather Morris’ million-copy bestseller marketed as a sexed-up ”romance novel/memoir” titled ”The Tattooist Of Auschwitz,” the online webmaster of the museum’s website felt compelled to issue this notice (and warning) to readers around the world:

”Due to the number of factual errors in the novel, “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” cannot be recommended as a valuable position for those who wish to understand the history of the Nazi concentration camp. While the novel is a one non-Jewish Australian storyteller’s impression about Auschwitz, allegedly inspired by a so-called “true story, as the cover of the book intoines, the book itself is almost without any value as a document of what went on in Auschwitz.”

Pretty strong words, and issued publicly on the museum’s Twitter feed @AuschwitzMuseum for the entire world to see. Here is some of what the museum also added:

“This novel about Lali Sokolov represents the only surviving account of a Jewish prisoner employed in Auschwitz as a tattooist, and if the story had been documented thoroughly, “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” could have been an extremely valuable source of knowledge. However, it was not documented properly.”

“An example: The Aufnahme work unit where Lali Sokolov worked (the unit is never mentioned in the novel itself) was supervised by SS-Oberscharführer Josef Hustek-Erber not Stefan Baretzki who has no official relations with the Aufhname.”

”Another example: The arm tattoo number of Gisela Furman given in the novel (34902) is not correct. This number belonged to a prisoner who was deported on February 11, 1943 from Westerbork. Gisela’s number was 4562, as Australian reporter Christine Kenneally recently reported in her New York Times article about the controversial book.”

”There are no documents which state that Roma [Gypsy] children were not tattooed in the camp. There are numerous testimonies that indicate that the youngest were tattooed the same way as adults.”

“Despite the information in the novel, the transport of Lali could not have gone through Ostrava and Pszczyna. We know this because original timetables prepared by Slovak railways and Reichsbahn show us the exact route.”

“There are no sources that say about a bus that was turned into a gas chamber. The gas-vans were used in Kulmhof extermination center.

“The sexual contacts between SS-Obersturmführer Johann Schwarzhuberem and a Jewish prisoner named Cilka is highly doubtful not only because of the very serious treatment of Rassenshade crime among the SS.”

“Heather Morris, the author of the novel, mentioned in her story a building and the room where those sexual contacts took place and shows the building on a map in the book (Lali’s camp lover Gita and her friend Cilka were supposed to work there from the winter of 1943). However this building was never completed.”

“The description in the novel of two crematoria blown up during the Sonderkommando revolt has nothing to do with the actual event during which one of the crematoria buildings (number IV) was burnt down by the prisoners.”

The museum concluded with a short tweet: “Soon the Auschwitz Museum is going to publish a long historical fact-checking review of the controversial novel on our website and on our Twitter feed. Stay tuned.”

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."