In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.
My take: 4 looks
The first review of 2019! My reading slump was long and hard this year, exacerbated by a huge change in my personal life, so I am awarding 4 looks to the book that I hope has brought me out of it.
Written on a very easy reading level, this book was a quick read. While I have read many books with the Holocaust as the theme or setting, this one was unique in that it never occurred to me that a prisoner was the one tattooing the incoming masses. The fact that these tattooists were inflicting the same dehumanizing act that had been done to them had an emotional effect on these men that I had never considered.
Enter Lale, a real person and survivor of the notorious prison camp. The story is his, how he survived, helped others survive, and fell in love. Without going into too much of the horrific detail of life as a prisoner, Morris nicely navigates the humanity that stayed with the prisoners in her story. I was invested in these people and their individual coping mechanisms.
But even more, this book made me do the best thing historical fiction can do: caused me to want to know more, do more research, and read more about some of the people, places, and ways of the story. I had the experience of visiting Dachau many years ago, and this made me remember a few of the things that had gone to the background of memory. And now I know more. More about the color coding patches, the fact that the camp I visited had the most intricate system of such coding, and finding out more about the prisoners and captors named in the story. And I thank Morris for the Epilogue that closed the thread on many of the people.
This book will stay with me for a while, and it is recommended.