Wednesday, 2 May 2018

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Reviewer : Gillian Hamer, author of The Charter, Closure, Complicit, Crimson Shore, False Lights & Sacred Lake. (

What we thought: “I tattooed a number on her arm. She tattooed her name on my heart.”

If that line doesn’t trigger a mix of emotions and a need to know more, then do not read this book. If it does, then prepare for one hell of a journey.

Based on the true story of Lale Sokolov who found himself at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1942 and through a series of unfortunate circumstances was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival - inking numbers into his fellow victims' arms to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust.

The job became his private hell and his private salvation in equal measures, and probably resulted in him surviving the war to go on to tell his story – although death came very close on more than one occasion. He used the tiny amount of power his job gave him to help feed many hundreds of prisoners by bartering goods found in inmate’s clothing for food and essentials which he shared amongst the camp.

But this is also a love story. What gave him the real strength to survive was his love for fellow camp mate, Gita. And their story will lead you on a rollercoaster ride of emotion that you will never forget – and nor should you.

I read this book over one weekend, so gripped was I by this story of love and despair, hope and compassion, encased by some of the worst human atrocities known to man. I’ve read many war stories before, but getting this direct from the horses’ mouth from a close up POV, gives a new perspective to the time. I’d urge anyone with an interest in history to read this book, and hope it serves to help us never forget.

You’ll enjoy this if you like : John Boyne, Wilbur Smith, Andrew Turpin.

Avoid if you don’t like : Wartime stories and human cruelty.

Ideal accompaniments: Weak vegetable broth and soda bread.

Genre : Historical

Available on Amazon

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