‘I tattooed a number on her arm. She tattooed her name on my heart.
In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust.
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 was determined not only to survive himself, but to ensure this woman, Gita, did, too.
So begins one of the most life-affirming, courageous, unforgettable and human stories of the Holocaust: the love story of the tattooist of Auschwitz.’
To say I loved this book wouldn’t be the right words as its hard to love such a heart-breaking story but it was definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year. The story was inspiring but devastating and I would recommend reading this with a pack of tissues at the ready.
I have only read a handful of historical fiction books on the Holocaust, but I have been to the Holocaust museum in Berlin, I have walked through the memorial and read the stories. I have seen films and read articles and yet every time I revisit this, I am horrified and shocked at what happened all over again. It will never be an easy thing to read about and that is important. It is essential that Morris made sure that this book was difficult to read in parts even though it was a love story because that is Lale and Gita’s truth.
In Morris’ own words after the novel was published:
‘Lale repeatedly told everyone he met how he wanted his story to be told and spread far and wide, so that a Holocaust would never happen again. Through his, and other testimonies, we would learn and live by the words he said to himself everyday — if you woke up in the morning, it is a good day. He would say to me: as long as you try to live the best life you can, you are a winner.’
Lale was an exceptional character and from the research I’ve done since reading the novel, he was also an exceptional man. This is the most heart-breaking yet beautiful love story I have ever read. How these two people could live through and survive the horror that was the Auschwitz’s, and still be able to have hope for a better future is awe-inspiring.
One thing that really stood out to me in this novel was how limited the mention of Hitler by name was. Morris makes sure that the focus is on Lale and Gita and their story. We all know who Hitler is and what he did, but this is not about him, it is about two people finding love in the most desolate and hopeless of places. It is a story of resilience, loss, life and death.
Morris has captured this true story beautifully and I think she has done Lale and Gita’s story justice. I think this is an important read and although it was difficult at times, it is inspirational. Please read this story. You will not regret it.
Thanks for reading! Have you read this book? If so, what did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!