Fair warning, this book is pretty deep and heartbreaking but so worth the journey.
This book was written based on interviews with Holocaust survivor, Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov and tells the tale of his time imprisoned in a concentration camp and becoming the tattooist in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Lale used his position as the tattooist which afforded him extra rations and the very rare, if still limited, freedoms to walk the camp unmolested by the Nazi guards. In a place of terror and death, Lale makes an unlikely connection. A terrified woman, Gita, presents herself in line to be tattooed and it is then and there that Lale falls in love. Over the course of the next couple of years, Lale does what he can to protect Gita. Using his position as Tatowierer he is able to secure her a job in the administration offices. He smuggles her and her bunk mates extra food and even develops his own smuggling ring of food and medicine with the help of a local (free) man who works as a construction worker in the camp. Surrounded by death and misery, horrors that we can only imagine, Lale survives, and love blossoms and grows in an unstoppable riptide. The two cling to the idea of a future in which they are free, and truly able to begin a life together.
One thing that honestly never ceases to amaze me when I read these stories (like in Born Survivors), is the ability of the human spirit to not only withstand/survive such unimaginable horrors, but to continue to forge meaningful connections and find something beautiful in all the misery. People who literally have nothing, willing to share their tiny morsels of food with those around them. Skin and bones, carrying the weight of their friends too weak to stand. The unrelenting will to survive that kept people going, day in and day out. This book did such a good job of showing just how incredibly powerful one simple act of kindness can be, the ripple effect that literally saved untold lives.
“He who saves the life of one man saves the world”
If ever two souls were meant to be together, it was Lale and Gitas. Surviving the concentration camps and finding each other again after the war when they had been separated by countless miles and obstacles is nothing short of miraculous.
This book will make you weep but give you hope. Hope in love and the resilience of the human spirit. Hope in the small acts of kindness that can save the world.
Be kind to one another friends.