The Tattooist Of Auschwitz
I picked up the habit of reading again recently and the first book I read, after a 3 year hiatus from reading, brought me to tears. I’ve found sitting down and focusing on a book quite difficult post-pandemic and I didn’t have much hope when I picked up The Tattooist of Auschwitz.
This novel is based on the biography of a Jew that was held in various concentration camps throughout World War 2. Unfortunately, the book in itself isn’t entirely historically accurate as the story has been “spiced up” to be a better read and there were more than a few factual inaccuracies found in the novel. According to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, the novel is “an impression about Auschwitz inspired by authentic events, almost without any value as a document”.
Every author who transforms facts into fiction must find a means to condense time, remove occurrences that don’t progress the plot, and keep the number of characters to a minimum. They must also overcome difficult difficulties unique to their story, and Morris’ decisions have resulted in a riveting and uplifting story for many. However, history is still important in historical fiction, from little personal details (Gary Sokolov complained that his father’s name was spelt “Lale” in the novel) to broader intricacies that can make a plot more complicated.
Unlike many novels about World War 2, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a love story about a couple that met in a concentration camp. Love isn’t something you’d expect to find in the midst of a world war, and one would think of it as frivolous and unnecessary at the time but we see that it proved to be quite the opposite. In a time of bleak uncertainty, love supported this couple and helped them stay hopeful about the future and what was to come. Many prisoners simply gave up after a point, but this couple was so intent and creating a future with eachother that it drove them to continue dealing with life head on.
The author also manages to raise, if not fully explore, some more difficult issues, such as the guilt of those Jews, such as the tattooist, who managed to survive by doing the Nazis’ bidding, essentially betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen. The prose is barely adequate, and one can’t help but wish that the author had found a method to convey her work as nonfiction. Even so, this is a gripping, heartbreaking story that is difficult to forget.