Stories of love, discipline, generosity, and resourcefulness that were born out of the Holocaust never fail to amaze me. But because of the atrocities of the time, I usually prefer to learn about them in a documentary. It’s much easier for me to devote an hour or two to this cruel period than several hours reading about it. Knowing this about myself, I began The Tattooist of Auschwitz with caution. Seeing the word “survival” on the cover also helped me. Whatever darkness endured by the main character it would ultimately be about…survival.
Armed with this knowledge and drawn in by Heather Morriss’s high-quality writing style, I began the story of Lale, a Jewish Slovakian man in his twenties who went to Auschwitz when concentration camps were still in their infancy. Quickly promoted from the assistant to the main tattooist responsible for carving thousands of permanent numbers into inmates’ arms, he was given access to more areas of the camp, afforded extra rations which he usually shared, and even came face to face with the “doctor of death” himself, Josef Mengele.
Through Lale’s eyes we are given a glimpse into the abominable creativity the Nazis used for dehumanizing those who crossed their paths. Any wrong move–or no move at all–brought death. The alternate side is how the craftiest and luckiest (often a factor) inmates survived from day to day, submissive on the outside, powerfully resolute on the inside.
This book reads very smoothly as we live through Lale’s three years at the hands of such doom. Every day could be his last. But, like other inspiring stories from this time, he triumphs again and again, helps many others, constantly dodges death, and even finds love.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a phenomenal book that deserves its many accolades. It is only graphic in its honest portrayal of events but never more than necessary. I appreciated that. There are also a few f-bombs, but I allow rare leniency on this because of the setting’s intensity.
Highly, highly recommended for mature teens and older. This would make a terrific book club selection or just for individual reading. It is uplifting in ways you would never expect but most importantly–it will change you.
A worthy 10/10 Stars