Our recommended read and this month’s book club book is The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris.
This novel 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.
Download the book via Borrowbox (by following this link or downloading the Borrowbox app onto your android or iOS device) in either eBook or eAudiobook format. Don’t worry about having to wait for the book – it can be read by lots of people at the same time, making it ideal for a book club book.
Below are some topics and questions for you to consider when reading the book. These questions originally came from the publisher.
1. How did you feel about Lale when he was first introduced, as he arrived in Auschwitz? How did your understanding of him change throughout the novel?
2. What qualities did Lale have that influenced the way he was treated in the camp? Where did those qualities come from?
3. Survival in the camp depended on people doing deeds of questionable morality. Lale became the tattooist, but how did Gita’s choices affect her survival? What about her friend who befriended a Nazi?
4. Inmates in the concentration camp had to make life-or-death decisions every day. Why did some make the “right” decisions and survive while others did not?
5. Discuss some of the small acts of humanity carried out by individuals in The Tattooist of Auschwitz. How did these small acts of kindness have greater implications? Did it make you reconsider what you believe to be brave or heroic? Did this make you think differently about the impact of your own everyday actions?
6. The Tattooist of Auschwitz makes clear that there were also non-Jewish prisoners in the camp. How did the treatment of Jews differ from that of non-Jews? How did differences manifest themselves?
7. Had Gita and Lale met in a more conventional way, would they have developed the same kind of relationship? How did their circumstances change the course of their romance?
8. In what ways were the relationships between Gita and her friends different from the usual friendships between teenage girls? In what ways were they similar?
9. In what ways was Lale a hero? In what ways was he an ordinary man?
10. Lale faced danger even after the camp was liberated. How did his experiences immediately after liberation prepare him for the rest of his life?
11. How does The Tattooist of Auschwitz change your perceptions about the Holocaust in particular, and war in general? What implications does this book hold for our own time?