In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.
Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.
One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.
A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.
I don’t even know where to start. How to do a review that will give this book the praise it deserves?!
This book is sad, it’s raw, it’s real. There were parts that were really hard to read, and I knew that would be the case going in. I have not read a lot of books that are set around the Holocaust. To read one man’s story or survival just takes your breath away.
Lale is a hard guy not to like. He’s generous and he’s brave. I couldn’t believe the way he talked to the guard. When my book club discussed this, we came to the conclusion that Lale probably felt like he had nothing to lose talking to the guard like that. When he fell in love with Gita, he gave her hope of a new future that involved the two of them together, married with children. I think this is what kept him going.
The way Lale sticks his head out for not only Gita, but also for the children and the elderly that come to the camp is commendable. He is smuggling food and jewels to help feed the hungry, when he is also hungry.
Cilka, Gita’s friend, has a small but important part in this story, and now I want to read Cilka’s Journey which is book #2 in this series.
I would recommend this to everyone. January of this year marked the 75th Anniversary since the liberation of the Nazi Camp. It was emotional watching the television coverage of the survivors who chose to go back with their families to give them an idea of what they went through.
This book brought out all the feelings and I would highly recommend it!
Book Rating: 5/5
For the grand finale this would pair nicely with a Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon.