A romance set in the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau sounds both improbable and rather insensitive, but The Tattooist of Auschwitz is neither.
Based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, Slovakian Jews who meet at Auschwitz, the novel shows the day-to-day life of the camps in harrowing detail.
Lale, by virtue of his command of several languages, is given the job of tattooist, inking the infamous numbers on the prisoners’ arms. Gita arrives at the camp in July 1942, and Lale is instantly smitten.
From his position of privilege in the camp hierarchy, Lale surreptitiously obtains medication, extra rations, and better job assignments for his fellow prisoners. Sometimes he is caught by the guards and punished, harshly, but he continues his stealth work throughout his imprisonment. And he never waivers in his conviction that he and Gita will survive the camps and be together.
At the end of the war, Lale and Gita return to Slovakia, not as happy a homecoming as they had hoped, and eventually to Australia where they live the rest of their lives.
After Gita’s death in 2003, Lake shares his story with author Heather Morris.
As much as I enjoyed the novel, I found the Insights and Interviews at the conclusion of the novel, especially the Afterword by Lale and Gita’s son, Gary, to be even more moving.
A touching and inspiring novel.