The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Title: The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Author: Heather Morris
Genre: Historical Fiction, Biography
Rating: 5/5

“To save one is to save the world.”

It is both a blessing and a curse that Lale Sokolov, a Jewish man, speaks multiple different languages when he is ushered into the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1942. Once his skill is discovered, Lale is offered the role of the camp tattooist; His main task being to tattoo numbers on each prisoner that arrives at the camp. Although this role gives Lale freedom, it also exposes him to witness horrendous acts of violence and inhumanity. Rather than hide under his new role, Lale uses his position of power to get food to the other prisoners and to help some escape. During his time at Auschwitz, Lale also meets a woman named Gita that he instantly falls in love with. After she one day disappears, Lale decides he will do everything he can to find the woman he loves, even if it means further risking his own life.

“Politics will help you understand the world until you don’t understand it anymore, and then it will get you thrown into a prison camp. Politics and religion both.”

This book is based on the true story of Lale Sokolov who tattooed the ID numbers onto the Auschwitz concentration camp prisoners. Everyone received a tattoo upon entry, no matter their age or gender. The Tattooist of Auschwitz recounts Lale’s guilt as he had to hold down and tattoo small children and elderly prisoners. He had to watch as these people entered the camp, having no idea what horrors they were about to face. It is easy to think that having an important role within the camp would have been a prisoner’s salvation, but this story shows that no one was truly safe.

“How can someone do this to another human being? He wonders if for the rest of his life, be it short or long, he will be defined by this moment, this irregular number: 32407.”

As many of you may have realized, I really like books that have education components to them, especially relating to our history. I think books are a great way for us to learn about historical events in a fun way. Heather Morris did a lot of research for this book and it really shows. I learned a lot about Auschwitz and the procedures of the camp which allowed me to better understand what was going on behind the scenes. For example, I knew that the Nazis did not allow the camp prisoners to take their personal belonging with them. However, I had not realized how many prisoners had brought jewelry and money with them which the Nazis took and sold, providing funds for the Third Reich. Due to the educational components of this book, I believe it would be a great addition to a high school reading list.

“We stand in shit but let us not drown in it.”

Like any Holocaust book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz had it’s fair share of sad moments, but it also had many moments of triumph. I really enjoyed reading about the sense of community that the prisoners in Auschwitz had. Many looked out for one another and did what they could to help their fellow man. It was also great reading about their scheming behind the Nazi soldiers’ backs, planning their movements ever so carefully. The fact that the Nazis saw the prisoners as nothing more than animals actually sometimes worked in the prisoners favor, as they were assumed to be unintelligent and weak when they were in fact the opposite.

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