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A Love Story in Auschwitz? It Seems Unbelievable, but It's Based on a True Story

When most people think of the Auschwitz, World War II, and the Holocaust, they usually don’t think of love stories, but that’s exactly what The Tattooist of Auschwitz is. Stranger still is the fact that it’s based on the lives of real people. This book tells the story Lale Sokolov, a prominent Jewish businessman in Slovakia who falls in love with another prisoner while surviving the most notorious concentration camp in history.


Lale’s troubles really begin when the Slovakian government, in a move to appease Hitler, order each Jewish family to volunteer a young man to work on the behalf of Germany. Lale, being 25 years old at the time, volunteers to work for the Germans, but doesn’t have any idea what to expect. We meet him impeccably dressed and packed tight in a cattle car with other young Jewish men. He hopes that he can receive preferential treatment, given his status as a businessman, but Auschwitz proves to be the ultimate equalizer as he is stripped of his clothes and possessions, shaved, given a number, and tattooed along with the others. Ultimately, through the kindness of his fellow inmates and because he knows multiple languages, Lale becomes the tattooist (in German, the Tätowierer). In other words, he becomes extremely useful to the Germans. This new position and higher status give Lale the capability to coordinate a jewels-for-food trade network, which he uses to help and feed other inmates. But, he does this at great peril to himself and those around him.


For some, it may be a problem that Heather Morris doesn’t provide a lot of description in her historical novel, and this is true; on the other hand, the setting of her book and its nefarious history are well known throughout the world, and so can be forgiven. What might not be forgiven, however, are some of the historical inaccuracies, which I will not go into detail here. Only know that Morris is a screenwriter by trade, this is her first book, and she is interested in keeping the plot moving, which she does at the expense of facts. This is not to say that you shouldn’t read her book, it just means that you should be aware that it’s categorized as historical fiction.


In short, The Tattooist of Auschwitz was a quick and suspenseful read, and I recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good story. Heather Morris’ book also made me want to learn more about the real Lale Sokolov and more about Auschwitz itself. In addition to The Tattooist of Auschwitz, we have a great selection of other historical novels and works of history on the Holocaust and World War II. Feel free to email, call, or come in if you want any recommendations!



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