Book Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

I actually read this in February and I can’t believe it’s taken me until now to write the review for it – my bad! So anyway, here’s the official blurb:

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival.

There have been many books about the Holocaust – and there will be many more. What makes this one so memorable is Lale Sokolov’s incredible zest for life. He understood exactly what was in store for him and his fellow prisoners, and he was determined to survive – not just to survive but to leave the camp with his dignity and integrity intact, to live his life to the full. Terrible though this story is, it is also a story of hope and of courage. It is also – almost unbelievably – a love story. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer – it was love at first sight, and he determined not only to survive himself but to ensure that Gita did, too. His story – their story – will make you weep, but you will also find it uplifting. It shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.

Like many survivors, Lale and Gita told few people their story after the war. They eventually made their way to Australia, where they raised a son and had a successful life. But when Gita died, Lale felt he could no longer carry the burden of their past alone. He chose to tell his story. 

This book was gut-wrenching and heartbreaking. There were a couple of moments where I had to stop because I was crying and could no longer see the words. But ultimately, it was uplifting and inspiring, full of love and courage. In many ways, it was like reading a memoir, as Lale and Gita fell in love and fought the odds to be together. Yes, they were some fairly graphic scenes, but this is the Holocaust – it comes with the territory, but if you can get through them, it is worth every second you’ll spend reading it. This was a compelling and unforgettable read that will most likely haunt me for the rest of my days – in the best way possible. If Lale and Gita teach you anything, it’s to love openly and without apology, for as long as you can.


Annéka xo