Title: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Book Beginnings quote:
Prologue: Lale tries not to look up. He reaches out to take the piece of paper being handed to him. He must transfer the five digits onto the girl who held it.
What has he done? He has placed prisoner 34902 in danger. He is protected. She is not. And still, he wants, needs, to take the risk.
Summary: Lale (pronounced Lolly), a Jewish man, is transported to Auschwitz-Birchenau from Slovakia in 1942. Since he has such good language skills he is trained to be the tattooist, marking the arms of survivors of the selection process with a number assigned by the Germans. One day he looks up as a woman offers her scrap of paper with th number on it and her wrist for tattooing. In that moment of human connection Lale knows he must meet this woman and get to know her. He eventually learns that her name is Gita. Because of his privileged position as the tattooist he is able to secure Gita a job in the administration. It was still a dangerous job but one where survival was more likely. Against all odds and many horrors both Gita and Lale do survive and both make their way back home to Slovakia where they eventually find each other and can finally get married. This book is their love story. A love story framed around the horrors of the most inhumane acts of a war ever -- the Holocaust.
Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz was a book club selection. It is based on a true story about real people. Even before I started reading it, many gals in the club were already raving about the book in person and on social media. For some reason, I felt less enthusiastic about the book. I liked the love story born out of the despair of the Holocaust, but some of the details of the story didn't jive with what I knew about events at Auschwitz, and other concentration camps and I felt skepticism creeping in to my brain. Later I read that I was not alone, that others, including the board members at the Holocaust Museum, were critical of the lack of attention to details. One inaccurate detail that really stood out was the number that Lale supposedly inked onto Gita's arm. It was five digits, but based on when she arrived at the camp, the number would have been four digits. (NYT)
In the author's notes, Heather Morris talks about how she had to play with details to make the story cohesive. It isn't a memoir, after all, it is a fictional accounting of a love story born in a concentration camp. The bones of the events are true and the details were added to move the story along. Conversations, timelines, characters were invented to tell Lale and Gita's love story. And it is a good one. Where some horrors were downplayed, others were in full view. One aspect of the story that I've always wondered about came into clearer focus for me...how could Jewish men and women could participate in the horrors of the concentration camps? Lale had to grapple with that himself. Was he complicit since he participated in the machine that destroyed and dehumanized so many millions of people? One way that Lale coped with his dilemma was to use his position to get goods and food to share with others to assist in the survival as many people as he could. Kindnesses offered were often returned later. We talked about this aspect of the story for quite a while during our book discussion.
In the balance The Tattooist of Auschwitz falls on the positive side of things. It is a loving story for sure, one that encourages hope and kindness and highlights the many ways we can make the world a better place for everyone, even in the midst of terrible circumstances.
|Lale and Gita. Photo taken many years after their ordeal during the war.|
- 20-Book Summer Challenge: 18/20
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I've been seeing more and more about this book lately, and I didn't know it was based on a true story.ReplyDelete
Have a great weekend! :-)
I didn't realize it was based on a true story either until I opened the book. It caused me to start in the back with the author's notes before I read the tale.Delete
I would also have been a little skeptical of this book but I'm glad that it was a rewarding read. Thanks for sharing the quotes and I hope you have a lovely weekend :)ReplyDelete
Juli @ A Universe in Words
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. We were considering this book for our book club, but I think we will pass.ReplyDelete
For as much as other members raved about the book, our discussion really wasn't very good. It was odd actually.Delete
This book has been on my list to read--and the author has at least one more related story in publication.ReplyDelete
My Friday post: https://www.bookclublibrarian.com/2021/08/friday-focus-friday-56-and-book_0281242474.html
We noticed that during our book club discussion. I'm pretty sure that some of the members will read on and I'll ask for an update as to their thoughts.Delete
I enjoyed this book, and I also felt some of your feelings. Also I will say as a Jewish person with family members that were in the camps I feel that some of these books glorify the Holocaust and that is concerning to meReplyDelete
Here is my teaser:
I certainly don't think this book glorified the Holocaust at all, it just didn't give a very accurate description of it. I kept thinking back to some of the memoirs I've read like The Hiding Place and Night. The horrors were not downplayed at all in those accounts.Delete
I wasnt necesssary speaking of every book about the holocaust, but there have been plenty written lately that use it as a back drop that seem to. I enjoyed Tattooist, it was one of the first I read, and I have read plenty others that are great stories. The Holocaust needs to be remembered, it is something that does not need to ever be repeated, it is something that is close to my family, but not every book written seems to take that in considerationDelete
Thanks for your thoughts. I tend to avoid books set in that time period because I find them so distressing. This week I am spotlighting a book from deep in my TBR pile - More Than Fiends by Maureen Child. Happy reading!ReplyDelete
Oddly, with all the horrors we are living through right now with the COVID Delta variant and people unwilling to vaccinate or wear masks I kept thinking, "well, it could be worse" if one compares experiences to the Holocaust.Delete
I hope you enjoy this one!ReplyDelete
Sounds like an emotional rollercoaster of a read! Happy weekend!ReplyDelete
I've been curious about this one. I read a lot of books set during this time, but have a really hard time when they downplay the atrocities of the Holocaust. Thanks for sharing! Hope you have a great weekend! :)ReplyDelete
The atrocities were there just not quite the way I expected. I can't quite get a handle on what was wrong.Delete
Sometimes when everyone likes a book the discussion isn't particularly insightful. Our Moloka'i one was an exception.ReplyDelete
there are so many stories of heroic acts during the war. Glad they are being written about.ReplyDelete
I've been told over and over that I need to read this. One of these days I think I'll have to give it a try. Thanks for visiting my blog earlier.ReplyDelete
Sounds like a powerful story...I would have to be in the right frame of mind for it, though. Thanks for sharing.ReplyDelete
I've been seeing this book around and wondering about it. It might be too intense for me. but I might try it at some point.ReplyDelete
I am with you on this one. I thought it was good, but not great. I hadn't heard about the inaccuracies, it's a shame they existed.ReplyDelete
Nice review! I've been keeping my eye on this one for a while. Had no idea it was based on a true story. I quite like a good Holocaust/Auschwitz story if it's told well.ReplyDelete