Saturday, September 28, 2019

Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (print/audio)

Title: The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Author: Heather Morris
Series: The Tattooist of Auschwitz, #1
Narrator: Richard Armitage
Published: September 2018, HarperAudio / Harper Paperbacks
Length: 7 hours 25 minutes / 272 pages
Source: Audio via the library / Print via personal copy

This beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov—an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity.

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 T├Ątowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over 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.

My thoughts: This book had been on my list to read for quite a while and it wasn't until I heard that a second book was coming out in October, Cilka's Journey, that I knew I couldn't put it off any longer. It wasn't that I didn't want to read it, but I just knew it would be an emotional read and that is exactly what it was.

It's always hard to write reviews and give ratings on these types of books. Afterall, the author is taking someone's history and writing a story about it. And this one is about such an atrocious time in history. But I think these types of stories need to be do we learn about them and how do the people who went through them process what has happened if they don't talk about it? I recently went to a book signing about concentration camps here in the US and the child of someone held in one of those camps said his parents didn't really talk about it and it really affected them for the rest of their lives after they were released.

But back to this story. Yes, it is historical fiction, so their is fiction blended in with fact, but overall, I thought is was a story well-written. One of the reasons I read these types of books is that I want to learn about what happened and this gives us Lale's experiences during his time in Auschwitz-Birkenau. I didn't realize that they made prisoners do the tattooing or some of the other jobs around the camp. 

While this was a very dark time in history, this story is filled with some hope and endurance. Lale made the best of a very awful situation. He could very well have given up as some of the other prisoners did. But he didn't. He used his privileged situation to not only help himself survive but others as well. 

There are lessons to be learned here. Not only about this terrible event itself, but about the spirit of survival and about hope. While I am not excited to read Cilka's story, I am looking forward to it...I think Heather Morris is a very talented author and she has masterfully given us a story that needs to be told.

Audio thoughts: I went back and forth between the print and audio version of this book. Richard Armitage does an amazing job with this audio - his voice is captivating and never once does he let his emotions get the best of him. 



  1. This is a book that I really want to read. It's still a captivating subjects, I see it with the older children in class as well. There are so many lessons to be learned from that period in history.

  2. A friend loaned me this book. I've seen the cover for Cilka's Journey online but didn't realize it was book #2


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