Monday, 19th February 2018
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This book is based on the true life story of Lale Sokolov who was the tattooist in Auschwitz for nearly three years during his early twenties.

When he first entered Auschwitz he was working on a building site in Birkenau as the camp was rapidly expanding at that time.

Unfortunately for him he quickly came down with typhus and only for the intervention of a man who he became friendly with on the way to Auschwitz did he survive. After getting better he was offered a position to work with the camp's tattooist, a Frenchman called Pepnan and recognising that it was a good and safe position he jumped at the chance even though he had serious qualms about marking people in such a fashion.

If you thought that the tattoos that were made on people entering Auschwitz were done in the same way that tattoos are done today then you are mistaken. The actual way it was done was by banging on a piece of wood with a needle in it and then covering over the marks in ink. It was quick and it was brutal, shocking to people who are just entered the hell hole that was Auschwitz.

One day Pepnan didn't turn up for work and Lale was told that he was now the main tattooist for the camp. He got himself an assistant a man by the name of Leon.

However much this is a tale of survival in a place like Auschwitz it is first and foremost a tale of love and romance that blossomed in that self same place.

Lale first saw Gita in the line for getting her tattoo and instantly fell in love with her and only over a number of weeks did he manage to track her down and manage to then speak to her. Their encounters were fleeting at first but soon Gita was as much in love with Lale as he was with her. Even when she got sick and nearly died from typhus he tried to do as much for her as possible, bribing kapos and guards as he went.

Lale had built up a system, because he could more or less move freely throughout the camp, of contacts of workers on the outside who could bring things in and the women in 'Canada' who had access to jewels and money so those things could be paid for. But he got caught and was hauled off for torture.

Luckily he survived and even managed to get his old job back although he had to be doubly careful about what trading he could do.

This is a hugely involved and involving story of love in an impossible place and it is good to know that Lale and Gita managed to meet and marry after the war even though that was not the end of their difficulties.

An inspiring story but one that unfortunately is left down by the abilities of the author to tell that story.

An interesting read that could have been better.

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