Outlook Issue 26 Winter 2018
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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Good read
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris Zaffre Publishing, October 2018 When the chips are down we all have to dig deep. Look forward, try and be positive and imagine there are better times ahead. This may be easier said than done for many, but the alternative can threaten a person’s sanity, even their very survival. The upbeat, resourceful approach to tough times is evident in a remarkable new book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by the New Zealand writer Heather Morris. It tells the true story of Lale Sokolov, a well-groomed, well-mannered young Slovakian Jew who in 1942 found himself transported to the Auschwitz Birkenau concentration camp in Poland. From the first page, Heather Morris gives the reader a gripping present-tense account of the Lale Sokolov story, first told to her by the man himself in 2003. Volunteering for the camp in a bid to spare his family, he ‘rattles across the countryside’ in a cramped, squalid cattle truck – ever watchful and encouraging his fellow prisoners. Speaking several languages he is picked as the camp’s assistant tattooist – ‘I’m a survivor’, he tells the main tattooist who has helped him through typhus – and he proves his worth to the bureaucratic Nazis by turning each new inmate into a number. But Sokolov looks much further than the next prisoner’s arm. When his mentor tattooist is taken away he steps into his shoes and finds his own assistant. He shares his extra rations, trades chocolate and medicines for valuables left behind by the dead, and falls in love with a fellow prisoner Gita. The relationship makes both of them even more determined to survive as they endure all manner of deprivation. The book ends with their freedom and reunion before, we learn in the epilogue, they go on to marry and live a happy and successful life together. The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a remarkable true story of hope and survival against all the odds. Read this book for the quality of the writing and the power of the story, but also for the overriding message that when the chips are down there can indeed be better times ahead. NC