The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Writer – Heather Morris
Based on the interviews with Slovakian Jew Lale Sokolov.
A paragraph to summarise:
In a world full of words, the Holocaust always finds me wordless and speechless. Are there any conversations on this historical genocide that truly use the right words to express how harrowing it was? Contemporary history has always been the most captivating to me. My time studying English at university meant that history was an integral part to my contextual research, and it would always sneak its way into my assignments. It is in my nature to talk, it is in my blood to write and it is in my interests to learn about the history that has led us to our present day. Justifying many things can be done so easily in writing – it is with true love and passion for the subject that allows the words to flow and form on the paper. Yet, when discussing the Holocaust I find myself discarding every adjective, every abstract noun and every verb that comes to me. Historians and writers put pen to paper to teach the upcoming generations about the world that existed before us, and most often, these individuals have never experienced what they are writing about. But it works. I truly believe that I will never be able establish a cure for the writer’s block that I experience when discussing the traumatically tortuous events inflicted by Hitler’s worshippers. What I can do is share the story -within the book review- of an incredibly heroic individual who allowed the world to see a snippet of the ordeals and tragedies he had to endure from his time within a concentration camp.
Inspired by the true events based on years of interviews between the writer Heather Morris and the courageous survivor Lale Sokolov (a Slovakian Jew), this true story pulls on the heart strings in the most unforgettable way. The book starts with Sokolov’s traumatic experience of being forced upon a cattle train, the sheer confusion and terror of the final destination suffocating the men just as horrifically as the intense, stifling heat and lack of space. Lale had known of the unrest within his homeland and throughout Europe, but that couldn’t prepare him for the years in front of him that he would have to endure -with a strength that he didn’t even know he had within him. Heather Morris recounts the initial point of arrival at Birkenau and the disorientating first few days of acknowledging the nightmare he was now forced to live in. Morris informs us of Lale’s obtaining of the tattooist role in which haunts him greatly: he cannot comprehend how human beings are now treated as just numbers, not individuals and most certainly not human beings. Lale observes the division of man and monster. He recalls the power of human sacrifice, human connections and the strength that lies within your soul that turns on a tiny light in the darkest of times. Amidst the horror, heartache and the most haunting days of his time in the camp, something raw and passionate overrides the pain. His love for Gita is one of the significant motivators behind his strength, as well as his compassion for others. What struck me as a reader and history enthusiast, was the captivating strength and determination of the people within these camps. In all that I have read, and will read in future, I will always remember the feelings this book roused. The words on the paper can only slightly represent the true anguish and horror that was endured by Lale and every other individual. I do not wish to go into detail and describe the events of Lale’s time in the camps, as I find the only way to truly begin to resonate with his experiences, is through the power of Morris’s compassionately written words on the page.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Harper Paperbacks, Sep 2018