Thursday, 26 October 2017

Book Review: THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ by Heather Morris

Author: Heather Morris
Bonnier Zaffre
October 2017
Expected publication: 11 January 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

If you wake up in the morning, it is a good day.

Book Description:

The incredible story of the Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist and the woman he loved.

Lale Sokolov is well-dressed, a charmer, a ladies’ man. He is also a Jew. On the first transport from Slovakia to Auschwitz in 1942, Lale immediately stands out to his fellow prisoners. In the camp, he is looked up to, looked out for, and put to work in the privileged position of Tätowierer– the tattooist – to mark his fellow prisoners, forever. One of them is a young woman, Gita, who steals his heart at first glance.

His life given new purpose, Lale does his best through the struggle and suffering to use his position for good.

This story, full of beauty and hope, is based on years of interviews author Heather Morris conducted with real-life Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov. It is heart-wrenching, illuminating, and unforgettable.

My musings:

How can I possibly review & rate the real-life account of a person who has stared death in the eye many times and managed to survive one of the darkest, most horrific chapters in human history? And not only survive, but find love, hope, purpose amidst the horror and come out of it a humble man, able to move on with his life and find happiness? Which makes Lale Sokolov’s story not only moving and heart-breaking, but also humbling and inspiring hope. I was so totally blown away by this book that I am really struggling to find words for the emotions it evoked in me.

I am no stranger to WWII stories, having worked with a lot of clients who had survived the holocaust and had their own tales of survival, heart-break and horror to tell – I shed many tears just listening to some of them. But the ever prevailing notion I so admired was that these people managed to forgive, find love, find happiness and live a full, rich life afterwards. Lale took it that one step further, finding his one true love at Auschwitz, this bleakest of places, and then managing to survive the horror AND be reunited with Gita. There is as much beauty in his story as there is horror.

I think what makes this story stand out from others is the simple but powerful account of everyday life in the concentration camp – without the overly graphic details aimed to shock and confront, which often only serve to turn some people away. Lale’s story tells of his daily reality, the horror that has become a routine, his meetings with terrifying historical figures that have made it into the history books as examples of the worst humankind has to offer, such as the sadistic “doctor” Josef Mengele. But as much as there was darkness, there was always a beacon of light in the small pleasures he found in this bleakest of environments, highlighting the strength of the human spirit. I remember vividly one simple statement one of my clients once said to me about her horrific wartime experience: “Yes, it was horrible. But we were young, and we were in love, and I remember that most of all.” That, too, was the spirit of Lale’s story – the triumph of love over depravity, of being able to survive when so many wished him dead.

Heather Morris, who spent years with Lale as he shared memories of his time in Auschwitz-Birkenau with her, does an excellent job in bringing this story to the reader, capturing the essence of a young man whose life was turned upside down by one of the worst chapters in human history. One day Lale was a young man enjoying the finer things in life – good food, beautiful young women, the comfort of a nice home and the love of his family – the next day he was on a cattle train bound for Auschwitz-Birkenau. Life can turn on a dime. This could be me, or you. In her writing, Morris manages to convey the spirit of a young man trying to survive, but also hold on to his humanity the best he can. It was heart-breaking and humbling to see the strength of the human spirit in the face of death.

What an amazing man. What an amazing story. Everyone should read this unforgettable book. Thank you, Heather Morris, for bringing Lale’s story to life for everyone to read and making sure we will not forget.

Thank you to Netgalley and Zaffre Publishing for the free electronic copy of this amazing book and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Image result for 5 stars

No comments:

Post a Comment