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Summary

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival - literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims' arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival. 

There have been many books about the Holocaust - and there will be many more. What makes this one so memorable is Lale Sokolov's incredible zest for life. He understood exactly what was in store for him and his fellow prisoners, and he was determined to survive - not just to survive but to leave the camp with his dignity and integrity intact, to live his life to the full. Terrible though this story is, it is also a story of hope and of courage. It is also - almost unbelievably - a love story. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale - a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer - it was love at first sight, and he determined not only to survive himself but to ensure that Gita did, too. His story - their story - will make you weep, but you will also find it uplifting. It shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances. 

Like many survivors, Lale and Gita told few people their story after the war. They eventually made their way to Australia, where they raised a son and had a successful life. But when Gita died, Lale felt he could no longer carry the burden of their past alone. He chose to tell his story. 

©2018 Heather Morris (P)2018 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

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Superb

Harrowing but with a strong theme throughout of determination to survive. Excellent book, had me gripped. The inter woven love story amongst the inhumane treatment of the characters by the Nazis, won through. A beautiful memoir that all should read irrespective of their faith, to prevent the holocaust ever happening again x

31 of 31 people found this review helpful

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mesmerising

very touching and profound book that will leave you thinking for a long time after

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

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Heart-rending story, sensitively narrated.

First of all I'd like to say that I did not experience the kind of volume/tonal problems in the sound that other reviewers have mentioned. There were one or two small glitches here and there but nothing really terrible and they certainly didn't spoil the recording or my enjoyment of it.

This is a truly shocking tale of what can happen to humanity when evil ideologies and actions permeate the political elite of a society and, ultimately, the people who carry out that elite's policies. It is harrowing, horrifying and difficult to comprehend the enormity of what happened but I am so glad that I saw it through to the end. I had never heard of Lale Sokolov before listening to this book but I finished it believing that he was a truly remarkable human being, who did what he had to do in order to survive the Holocaust.

Forced to tattoo his fellow Jews in the concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Lale manages to survive the horror of his job, the cruelty of the SS guards, the evil experiments of Dr.Mengele on some of his friends and the realisation that people were being killed ,en masse, around him. He finds friendship, even love, within the camp and takes terrible risks to save his friends and as many of his camp-mates as he can. Throughout this ordeal and the imprisonment that follows the liberation of the camp by Russian forces, Lale manages to maintain his humanity and decency, even a sense of humour.

The epilogue and author's note were very moving and brought a lump to my throat. The sense of injustice meted out to one of the female characters after the war was profound.

I thought the narration was superb. The tone of voice, the pacing, the sombre quality, the accents and even a sense of menace at times were all well judged and appropriate to the subject matter. It is difficult to use the word 'enjoyment' in relation to this book. I was left with a feeling that it was an important tale of witness and one that should be widely read, so that we never forget how quickly human beings can fall into depravity if we do not challenge evil.

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

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A true survivor

Having always had an interest in biographies and real life stories from the war, this has to be one of my favourite listens so far. A fascinating story where the writer does a great job of describing enough to inform but not over indulge. All I can say is a massive thank you for sharing this story, highly recommended listen to anyone interested in the darkest history of the war.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Poor recording spoils the story

After waiting for this moving story to arrive on Audible for quite a while, it has ended as a real disappointment. As mentioned in other reviews Richard Armitage is a wonderful narrator but all that is lost where the sound seems to have been recorded at different volume levels and tonal quality. The story deserved much better and in my opinion, should be re-recorded.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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one of the most moving books I've ever listened to

what a beautifully written book. the author should be very proud. I am very grateful too have listened too and own this book. thank you so much

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful & amazing true love story

This is a story about love, survival and inspiring people somehow retaining their humanity in the face of true evil. Horrific yet beautiful.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Poor recording distracts from deeply moving story

Any additional comments?

The story was told in a moving and captivating way. Unfortunately, the constant change in volume/tone of the recording very much distracted from this and did not do the book justice.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Gripping, emotional and humbling.

I could not stop listening to this book. I found myself engrossed. Despite other reviews, I found no issues with the volume. This story stops you in your tracks. I would highly recommend.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Distressing but shows humanity's bravery

What did you like most about The Tattooist of Auschwitz?

An unusual perspective on the camps - the Jew forced to tattoo other Jews and become a collaborator of sorts, but still able to fight back.

What other book might you compare The Tattooist of Auschwitz to, and why?

Schindler's Ark immediately sprang to mind, but there are many other stories set in concentration camps that stirred in my memory as I listened to this.

What does Richard Armitage bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

He voiced Lale and Gita very well, which was a little surprising as his likeable but very Yorkshire brogue would not have been my first choice to portray Slovakians.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The epilogue! The 'after Auschwitz' and telling of how Lale came to tell his story had me in tears when the main story did not.

Any additional comments?

Grim and distressing yet it shows, like Schindler, the power of humanity's bravery and compassion.

A true story, one I'd never come across, of the Holocaust. When you've read and seen films growing up, you think you aren't going to meet something new about the concentration camps. Here's a story that I hadn't considered - that of the Jew forced to tattoo his fellow camp labourers with their numbers.

Lale Sokolov vows to survive his ordeal by any means he can. While this might mean for some a clinging to life by treading over others, Lale uses his small advantages to help others. He also falls deeply in love with another camp inmate, Gita.

I accessed this book as an audiobook, and found this a very appropriate medium for the story, listening to Lale's voice through his history. Knowing that the two main characters in it are real takes a little of the tension out of the book, though the ordeal of the pair and their acquaintances and families are still painful, knowing that these are real events. The fact that Lale is in a privileged position, talking regularly with some of those in positions of power is quite chilling. And though you know Lale lives through it, I still found the constant threat a little frightening.

The story takes us out of the War by the end, and we get to hear of Lale and Gita's experiences and lives after Auschwitz, which moved me to tears listening to their later lives and how they chose to move on from such horrors.

Personal stories are a powerful way to view stories of the Holocaust. This story comes via Lale through a writer telling us his story, and the slight emotional detachment of the third person makes it more bearable. Lale's thoughts are clearly stated throughout, the scene set and made quite visual.

Narrated well on Audible, the voices of both Lale and Gita are plausible as given life by the one voice, and I would recommend this medium for the novel.

With thanks to Nudge Books for the sample copy, provided for review purposes.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Anna E.
  • 21-02-18

Recording Technical Issues are distracting

What disappointed you about The Tattooist of Auschwitz?

While I love hearing RCA perform in audio books (David Copperfield is the best),the quality of this recording is jarring and interrupts the flow of the story. It seems as if two or three different recording sessions were cobbled together to make the final cut, but you can hear the change in recording levels, the change in RCA's voice (one segment strong and clear, the next segment raspy and farther away from the mic). This is noticeable from one paragraph to the next, sometimes one sentence to the next. I've not noticed this issue with any other Audible book, so not sure what happened this time. But you Quality Control Dept or Recording Engineers need to listen before they release.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Lale, he did what had to be done in order to survive

What about Richard Armitage’s performance did you like?

Always love his performances, but the aforementioned technical issues were messy and made listening less enjoyable.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

I guess I'm inured to holocaust stories. My mom was a nurse in the 3rd Army stationed in Munich in WWII. She was one of the first groups to go into Dachau, I heard her stories and saw her photos all my life. So, at least in this story, there was a "happy" ending, they lived.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Gillian
  • 21-02-18

What?!? Only 3 Stars For Richard Armitage? Yes...

Don't get me wrong--generally, Armitage absolutely elevates prose to dizzying heights, and when I saw he was to be the narrator of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, I was thrilled.
Uhm, no.
The book is fraught with tragedy, has tenderness, has passion, but Armitage delivers it all in the same ponderous, oh so ponderous, tones. I had to speed the whole thing up to x1.25-x1.5 speed as what sensitivity there was within the text is lost in such slooooow and serious reading. He does well with accents, well with dialogue, but for the most part... ouch!
And this is very much an Ouch-ish kind of book. Lale and Gita have nothing, no power of choice, little dignity; all they have is each other in horrific circumstances. They live moment to moment, never knowing when the SS will come for them. Never knowing when they can laugh, when they can kiss. The book depicts the terrors of Auschwitz-Birkenau quite well, the determination to just get through each day, surviving at all costs--even if that means "defiling" your fellow human being with tattoos that turn a person into a number rather than a name (but don't worry--Lale shows his humanity in numerous other ways).
While a good book, I don't think it merits 5-stars as it's fairly easy to put down/put away for a time, and I'm very much into cover-to-cover listens.
Maybe it was Armitage (whom I would still gladly listen to in another work), maybe it was a certain dryness of the text. I don't know.
I'm glad I listened to it, but I wish it had been more engaging...

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Valentina Ancilotti
  • 04-03-18

Thank you

A moving story.... a marvellous voice to give it new life. Thanks to Ms Morris and to Richard Armitage. And to Lale and Gita.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • cwooden
  • 24-02-18

Audio quality is not the best.

What about Richard Armitage’s performance did you like?

I bought this book because Richard Armitage was the narrator but the quality was sub-par in the editing. Very inconsistent voice tone and quality.

Any additional comments?

I'm not going to add anything more about the story because it is amazing. I do want to comment on the audio quality. Normally I love Richard Armitage as a narrator but this reading often sounded like they patched together different reading sessions. The quality is inconsistent and it's aurally disruptive and annoying to the story when the narrator's voice changes frequently, sometimes from sentence to sentence. Audible usually has much better quality products and this one was very recently recorded so it's doubly disappointing.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • BonBon
  • 22-02-18

Extremely Moving

I have read many books about the Holocaust, but this one moved me more than any other on the subject that I can remember. Thank you, Heather Morris, for this book.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Caron
  • 22-02-18

dreadful narration

I listened to Kate Quinn ..The Alice Network.. absolutely brilliant, so downloaded this one. The story summary looked great, but the narration is appalling... I've given up.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Katie Cselovszki
  • 23-05-18

Finding Love In A Hopeless Place

This story needs to be heard by everyone. Two people finding a deep love in the most horrifying place, not knowing if they would live to see the next day, made my heart sing one minute and then cry the next. Thank you Lale for allowing Heather to tell your beautiful story. Thank you Richard Armitage for being brilliant and taking such tender care with these people's lives. Thank you Heather Morris for letting Lale's words tell the story.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • taylor levos
  • 22-05-18

Captivating!

I devoured this book. The characters have such remarkable grit in the face of adversity. The writing truly transported me into Auschwitz and I felt a deeper understanding of the challenges of life there. Great read!

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Megan
  • 18-05-18

B+ storytelling of an A+ story

Great narration and a beautiful story. Fell in love more and more with the love story

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Annette Villafane
  • 14-05-18

Powerfully inspiring

This has been one of the most difficult and most powerful books I've read in a long time. I was so moved with their will to live that I cried just thinking about ways they could escape this endless nightmare.The atrocities of war were many, but men's will to live is powerfully inspiring and mind blowing. I loved this book so much. This stoey should be shared in our schools. Bravo and thank you for sharing your amazing journey!!