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The Tattooist of Auschwitz

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

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 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.

The group agreed that this was a novel worth reading, although it was not a comfortable read.  Many of the group felt a certain detachment from the novel as the quality of the writing was not the best due to its simplicity and some of the language of the text not fitting the times it was portraying.  Some moments in the story seemed somewhat unbelievable and we thought it was a good story that was not very well told.  We felt that this could be because several experiences of a variety of prisoners had been included in the story but that not all of these were necessarily Lale's.

There is a great deal about the Camp conditions to be learnt from the book and members who had visited Auschwitz and Birkenau found the descriptions quite accurate.  It is written without a lot of emotion although one member did shed tears whilst reading.

In conclusion, we would recommend the book with some reservations regarding the accuracy of the memories and the quality of the writing.

Review by Janine Tibbles



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