A powerfully emotional book about the love, resilience and surviving through the worst possible circumstances. The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a true story of Lale, a Jew, who find himself trapped in a pool of uncertainty.
A true story that tells you all the horrible truths of what happened inside the camps. The unfairness of life and the people trapped inside. The families who tried to stick together with every strength left in their body. The endless hunger and sleepless nights, watching the people you love die in front of you.
I knew what I was getting into when I started reading this book. I knew the subject would be sad, painful, tormenting. All of these emotions passed through me while I was reading. But a few unexpected ones started flowing too – emotions of love; emotions of friendship; caring for one another. And oh God, the emotion of hope for a better tomorrow. Emotions that make you shiver.
While we follow Lale’s story, we get to see him getting dragged in a camp, fighting his way through starvation. He becomes a ”favourite” to the guards, and by favourite I mean – he might get to not work on Sunday sometimes. He makes friends in this unknown place, where you don’t know who to trust. And luck seems to be on his side at all times. He gets noticed by the tattooist, and becomes his apprentice, only to replace him a few days after. The old tattooist – we don’t know what happened to him, but we can only assume the worst.
While he is a tattooist, his job is to tattoo numbers on people’s arms. A soulless task, it might seem. Innocent people, who are about to become numbers. And he gets to be the one to inflict pain on them first. We can feel his struggle. How he tries to be as gentle as he can, given the circumstances. But he knows that in order to survive, he has to fit in. He has to push his way through. With time, he gets closer to the guards, and has a little extra to eat. He always saves his little extra piece of bread to give to his friends and share it among each other. As a lot of young people, he falls in love. And the lady likes him back.
Sometimes I thought to myself – when you are in such a closed space, with nowhere to go, do you really love someone? Or does ”love” simply then mean having a friend in need? With Lale, this was true love. The way he would describe his girl made you blush. The way he cares for her and the things he does for her are loving and impossible. There is a moment when Gita is sick, and can barely survive, but Lale saves her.
The cutest scene in the book
The scene when he will give diamonds and pearls he has been saving to get a chocolate. He gets a little piece only, and he can’t see Gita for weeks. When he finally does – the chocolate has melted, but they don’t care. They haven’t eaten chocolate for years, and this sweet delight makes them happy, at least for a little moment.
But life is not always so bright. He will meet Doctor Mengele, and not only him, but other awful people along the way. Lale will be punished, thrown in a cell, punched until he faints by his very own friend. He will see terrible things happen to his friends, his colleagues, his girlfriend’s friends. And on top of that, he will keep on going.
The Sad Reality
One scene in this book perfectly describes how someone might have felt being in there. A football match. Between prisoners and guards. Where even though the prisoners haven’t eaten for months, they are better players. But they cannot win this match. They can’t humiliate the guards. If they do, they will never get to play football ever again. A terrible humiliation and punishment. But a sad reality. You cannot win this game. Not today. Maybe tomorrow…
A beautiful book for all the wrong reasons. I wish some things never happened. And I hope never to be repeated again. But I cherish books like this one that exist to tell a story, no matter how upsetting it might be.
Prepare to cry, laugh and love. Prepare to be scared, angry and disgusted. But prepare to learn a piece of history, a piece of a time not so far away, where not everything was milk and honey. I recommend this book to all of you. This is definitely one of those ”must-read” books!