As a fan of historical fiction, and especially World War II era fiction, the description of The Tattooist of Auschwitz hooked me from the first few words. The story is that of Lale Sokoloz, a Slovakian Jew who was transported to Auschwitz. Following a near-death experience, Lale finds himself the apprentice to another prisoner, the Tätowierer, the man who inked the infamous numbers on the arms of each arriving prisoner. Soon, Lale is the Tätowierer himself. In that role, he meets Gita, the woman whom he will love until the end of both of their lives. Lale struggles with his faith through his experiences, but never loses his humanity. In fact, he finds a way to secret away food and medicine for the prisoners around him–even after his actions have life-threatening consequences and nearly take him away from Gita forever.
In the confusing crush of days after Auschwitz was liberated, Lale and Gita are separated and neither knows if the other has survived or if they will see one another again. Their post-war lives are filled with ups and downs, joy as well as sorrow. Lale, always reluctant to talk about his life experiences and what happened during the Holocaust, tells his tale to author Heather Morris in the last years of his life, eager to leave the world and rejoin Gita, who has preceded him in death.
Fiction of this era is always compelling to me. The Tattooist of Auschwitz is an especially memorable story given the fact that it is based on real life events. Especially moving is an afterward by the couple’s son, who shares his reflections of his parents and their outlook on life, love, and family.