Title: The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Author: Heather Morris
Genre: WWII, Nazi, Jewish, War, Thriller, Fact, True Story
"As the girls enter the women's camp, Dana and Ivana rush to Gita. 'Are you all right? Where did they take you? Why did they take you?' Dana demands, fear and relief on her face.
'I'm okay. They took me to work in the administration office.'
'How...?' Ivana asks.
'Lale. I think he somehow arranged it.'
'But you're alright. They didn't hurt you?'
'I'm fine. This is Cilka. I'm working with her.'
Dana and Ivana greet Cilka with a hug. Gita smiles, happy that he friends are so immediately accepting of another girl in their midst. All afternoon she had worried how they would react to her now working in relative comfort, without having to deal with the cold or any physical effort. She could hardly blame them if they were jealous of her new role and felt she was no longer one of them.
'I'd better go to my block,' says Cilka. 'I'll see you tomorrow, Gita.'
Cilka walks off and Ivana watches her go. 'Gosh, she's pretty. Even dressed in rags she's beautiful.
'Yes, she is. She's been throwing me little smiles all day, just enough to reassure me. Her beauty goes beyond the surface.'
Cilka turns back and smiles at the three of them. Then, with one hand, she removes the scarf from her head and waves it to them, revealing long dark hair cascading down her back. She moves with the grace of a swan, a young woman unaware of her own beauty and seemingly untouched by the horror around her.
'You must ask her how she has kept her hair,' Ivana says, scratching absently at her own headscarf.
Gita pulls her own scarf from her head and runs her hand over her short spiky stubble, knowing all too well that it will soon be removed again, shaved back to her scalp. Her smile disappears briefly. Then she replaces her scarf, links arms with Dana and Ivana and they walk towards the meal cart."
This is definitely the longest quote I have chosen to date from a book I have reviewed. The reason why? I just thought it was so poignant to show what people in Auschwitz suffered without having to directly be hurt or abused by those in authority. I thought it was so important to point out something as simple as being allowed to keep your own hair and not having it removed was so meaningful to people that when someone was allowed they were in awe of her. They already thought Cilka was a beautiful person for her kindness but to see her with her own long hair showed how beautiful she physically was and how much these women wanted their rights back to decide what to do with something as simple as their own hair.
I am aware it is not that long ago that I read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne, however, thanks to The Twinkl Book Club on Facebook I came across The Tattooist of Auschwitz. So many people were recommending reading this book and I finally saw that Kindle were having a Daily Deal selling The Tattooist of Auschwitz for only 99p. I had to have it. I had every intention of reading it over the summer as I knew I would be able to concentrate more on it and enjoy it more. However, I really wanted to get back into reading my Kindle. I had missed using it and had read a number of paper books since last using it on holiday last summer. So, I found myself starting the book. I actually started it whilst at work. I found a moment to read some whilst on my break and my initial thoughts were that it wasn't going to grip me as much as I had thought. I thought Lale was quite sophisticated and higher educated than the others he was sharing the train with. He was thoughtful, resourceful and knew how to stay alive. Lale makes a vow to himself that no matter what it takes he will survive.
This vow is something Lake took very seriously and he keeps reminding himself of his promise. He does not want the Nazis to defeat him. Lale is a Jew living in Slovakia when the Nazis invade. They request for each Jewish family to send a child over 18 to help work for the Germans. "Arbeit Macht Frei" - Work sets you free. Lale volunteers himself and finds himself arriving at Auschwitz. Through a range of different roles and responsibilities, Lale becomes the tattooist and has to give every new arrival their tattooed serial number. No one will be known by their names, only their number.
The Nazis did not believe anyone in a concentration camp was worthy of a name, they were not entitled to a name. Lale and the SS Officer, Stefan Baretzki, along with Leon, an assistant, make the 8km walk from Auschwitz II -Birkenau (seen below) to Auschwitz I every time new people arrived. Lale tries to treat each person gently and with grace, apologising for tattooing them whenever he can. Through this Lale meets a young lady who he never thought he would find. Lale meets the love of his life, Gita. Gita plays a big role in the story as she has such an influence on Lale and wanting what is best for them both. She is a strong character who with Lale has taken on his vow to survive. I felt that Gita would perhaps have given up in Auschwitz earlier had she not met Lale. Through their relationship, they are a constant support for one another.
The relationship with Gita is not the only bond Lale forms, due to his position in work and his knowledge of languages he finds himself creating friendships, deals and bargains with a number of other people, Nazi SS soldiers, Jews, outside workers are amongst some. I was so impressed with how strong a person and personality Lale is. This is the first time I have read a personal recount of Auschwitz and having visited such a historical place I could really visualise where Lale is referring too and what he is talking about. For me, The Holocaust is such a key part of history we can never forget or ignore what happened. The atrocities people suffered just because they were the wrong skin colour, religion, sexuality or someone who just stood up for what they believed in, is appalling. I absolutely recommend going to Auschwitz if you ever get the opportunity, it is so thought-provoking that there is no way people can ignore what happened. Physically seeing all of the belongings and possessions of these poor people, the people who Lale and Gita lived with. Gita's role originally was to search the possessions of the new arrivals and to take anything of value. These possessions and things of value are still there! They are still in Auschwitz for people to go and see.
Although, I felt Lale and Gita were portrayed as strong, loyal people I did feel that the author, Heather Morris, was very matter of fact about her storytelling. She didn't elaborate on what happened or who too, there was not a great amount of detail about the way she wrote. I feel when talking about The Holocaust you need to talk with a little more dignity for the poor people. As Morris talked about what happened she didn't really speak much about Lale's feelings, I don't know if this is due to the way Lale spoke, perhaps he did not like to talk about how these scenes made him feel or maybe that is Morris' writing style, I don't know. I just felt she was very straight and fact informing. Particularly when talking about the way in which the people were exterminated or discarded. She openly talks about what happened but does not speak about the repercussions or the impact this has on the others seeing these events. This must have had some lasting effect on Lale and Gita, the only reference to emotion is when their son speaks at the end about how he feels about his parents and any reaction they may have shown to events.
Overall I would recommend The Tattooist of Auschwitz, but I would not necessarily read it again. I felt the characters were well portrayed but the things which happened to them were not given enough reading time. I feel someone else could possibly have done Lale's story justice.
Thank you for sharing your story with us Mr Sokolov, I hope you found happiness and peace in your life and you are now, finally, home.
10-Word-Review: Thought provoking but doesn't do it the justice it needs.
I have decided to read a completely different type of book. I have started Hooked on the Game, by C. M. Owens, the first book in the Sterling Shores series. A friend of mine recommended the series and I will be reviewing the book shortly...Steph xx