(Mini) Book Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about Why I Read War Fiction and since then I’ve been slowly adding more and more books to the list of War Fiction that I’ve enjoyed reading. My most recent War Fiction read is actually less fiction and more historical fact – and a book, rightfully so, may I add, that has been on a lot of peoples’ radar over the last few months.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris is based on the true story of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew who is sent to Auschwitz in 1942. Lale stands out from the rest of the people sent to the camps – he is well dressed, well educated and speaks a number of different languages. At home, he is known as being a lady’s man – a smooth talker. These language skills and seemingly his personality allows him to stand out and he is asked to become the camp’s Tatowierer, a job that carries multiple repercussions but also provides a number of benefits. As Tatowierer, he is given better sleeping arrangements, he accesses more rations – which he shares with the other prisoners, no less- and he is able to move around the camp much more freely than everyone else. In doing so, he meets Gita, a young girl who he falls instantly in love with and suddenly his reason to survive becomes all the more clear. His attraction to Gita is clearly instantaneous.

The book is particularly poignant in the sense that it depicts the horrors of the war at their worst, highlights the difficulty of survival in the bleakest of occasions, but also the beauty of life and appreciating it in its purest form. It’s about showing compassion to people who deserve it and not taking the little things for granted. Told to the author by Lale himself, it highlights the significant role that non-compliant people had in the war effort and how people on either side of the war front had to make difficult choices to survive. 

My love of history goes deep within me and having the opportunity to read such a book was just fantastic – knowing that the characters within the story were real and the story that they had to tell was just as real really affected me and made the story all the more enjoyable for me. The story – in spite of its somewhat bleak content- has a happy ending and it’s nice to see that sometimes, for some people during the war, there was a light at the end of the tunnel and they were allowed some happiness in their lives. 

I’m looking around for books with similar themes at the moment so if anybody has any recommendations then I’d be incredibly happy to hear them!