If you’ve ever read survival books like The Tattooist of Auschwitz, you’ll often see how fleeting life is and how one different twist would have lead to the death of Ludwig Sokolov (Lale) and then no story. That’s not a plot spoiler as the book is about his ordeal in Nazi concentration camps. You should know that the Nazis were very efficient in their killing to the point that each prisoner was tattooed with a unique number. Ludwig found himself as the tattooist at Auschwitz, a position that came with some perks. He tattooed numbers on thousands of fellow Jews and other unwanted before they were killed.
“The tattooing has taken only seconds, but Lale’s shock makes time stand still. He grasps his arm, staring at the number. How can someone do this to another human being? He wonders if for the rest of his life, be it short or long, he will be defined by this moment, this irregular number: 32407.”
Many ask how he could do such a horrible thing. This is also a novel of survival and we are lucky to hear his story to allow the knowledge of what transpired to remain alive and let the doubters be damned.
“He has seen the consequences of greed and mistrust here. Most people believe that if there are fewer men, there will be more food to go around. Food is currency. With it, you stay alive. You have the strength to do what is asked of you. You get to live another day. Without it, you weaken to the point that you don’t care anymore. His new position adds to the complexity of surviving. He is sure that as he left his block and walked past the bunks of beaten men, he heard someone mutter the word “collaborator.”
The story is not really uplifting as it is about concentration camps, but then again it is because it is a story of struggle and survival against all odds.
““I couldn’t love you if you did. They were your family, I know that. I know it’s a strange thing for me to say, but you will honor them by staying alive, surviving this place and telling the world what happened here.” Lale leans over to kiss her, his heart weighted by love and sorrow.”