Book review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

The Tattooist of Auschwitz, written by Heather Morris, is a riveting, true story about the struggle of a Jewish man as he fights to survive the concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau and to protect the woman he fell in love with.

Lale was an intelligent young man who could speak multiple languages and charm almost everyone he spoke to. When he is taken to Auschwitz, this charm places him in a position of power. He becomes the ‘Tättoowierer’ of Auschwitz.

Lale did what he had to in order to survive: he was forced to etch his fellow prisoners’ numbers into their skin. This is how he met Gita, his love at first sight. The thought that he would be seen by others as a German conspirator sparked a fear in him that burned his entire lifetime.

Despite being faced with the possibility of death every day, Lale and Gita survived the Holocaust in extraordinary ways.

They moved to Melbourne in 1949. They then lived a normal life in Australia; started a fabric business, had a child, vacationed at the beach. Gita passed away in 2003 which inspired Lale to share his story before he joined her. 

Lale told his story to the novel’s author, Heather Morris, over an interview that lasted three years, “so it would never happen again”. Morris had to piece together the elements of the story, as events weren’t told in chronological order. Lale passed away in 2006, three years after Gita. Their romance survived the war and lasted throughout his life. During their time in Auschwitz, both Lale and Gita thought the other had died at some point, as they were torn apart and reunited. There was no certainty that they would see each other again. Despite this, Lale believed in their love and believed that they would be free one day.

The novel depicts horrifying events such as forced labour of malnourished prisoners, the rape of a young women by a German soldier, the torture of prisoners, conducted by fellow prisoners forced to do their captors’ bidding and the mutilation of prisoners carried out by Doctor Joseph Mengele.

“I bet you’re the only Jew who walked into an oven and then walked back out of it”.

This novel has emotional scenes in it, but was written in a respectful way. It doesn’t dramatise what happened, it simply allows the reader to discover the true horrors of Auschwitz.

I believe it was heartbreaking but not overly confronting and that it was written this way purposefully, so that it can reach a larger audience. Morris tells the story like a journalist, never imposing her own beliefs. Heather Morris did an exceptional job and everyone should read this novel.

Here is the trailer for the novel:

Heather Morris was originally from New Zealand; she now lives in Australia, where she studied screenwriting. The Tattooist of Auschwitz was written as a screenplay but with the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Heather Morris published her story as a novel. 


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