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Cross Plains Public Library (TX)

"The Tattooist of Auschwitz" by Heather Morris


A true story, Heather Morris’s novel focuses on the life of a young Slovakian Jew named Lale who is imprisoned at Auschwitz Two-Birkenau in April 1942.  Lale becomes an apprentice to Pepan, the tattooist responsible for inscribing unique identification numbers into the skin of each new prisoner. When Lale tattoos the number 34902 onto the arm of a young woman, their eyes meet, and he is instantly smitten.

After Pepan mysteriously disappears, Lale is promoted to head tattooist and receives privileges such as better lodgings and extra rations, which he distributes to fellow prisoners. Lale develops a complicated friendship with a young guard named Baretski. With  Baretski’s help, Lale writes to the female prisoner he encountered, and they finally meet.

He learns her name is Gita, but she refuses to give him any other information as she thinks of herself only as prisoner 34902. Their relationship grows quickly and Lale encourages Gita to hope for their future together.

Meanwhile, Lale creates a network of smugglers within Auschwitz. The conditions at Auschwitz are horrendous and Lale witnesses the extermination of countless innocent lives within the camp’s walls. A large group of Romany people are brought into Lale’s block and they become known as “Gypsy” camp. Lale is fascinated by their nomadic lifestyle and becomes an honorary member of this close-knit community. But, when the SS guards discover Lale has been hoarding smuggled jewels and food under his mattress he is tossed into a cell, beaten, and imprisoned. He manages to escape execution but is devastated when he discovers that everyone in the Gypsy Camp has been murdered.

After two and a half years, Gita is being transferred, but manages to shout out her name and hometown to Lale and profess her love for him. She escapes from the guards, finds refuge in a nearby village, then makes her way to her hometown, while Lale escapes and then is captured by Russian soldiers. Once Lale escapes the Russian camp, he makes his way to Gita’s hometown. Time stands still as Gita and Lale cross paths on the street and recognize each other. The story ends as Lale asks Gita to marry him.

I love books that are full of history and are true stories.  This book was something I happened to pick up and thoroughly enjoyed.  If this book becomes a movie, I am sure to watch it.  I recommend this book to anyone who loves WWII history or stories.  This book is worth 4 stars.


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