The Tattooist of Auschwitz: a book that creates more confusion than understanding 

The Auschwitz Memorial Research Center has expressed concern about Heather Morris’s The Tattooist of Auschwitz. The author’s claim that the book is a well documented story lead readers to treat it as a credible reference of prisoners’ life in the camp whereas it is not.

© The true story of how two Jewish prisoners, Lale, an Auschwitz tattooist, and Gita, who he tattooed, fell in love.

“We become interested in the story itself and the further we got into the details, the more surprised we were to discover how [many] historical mistakes – small and big – about the reality of Auschwitz were there.” Said the editor-in-chief of Memoria ( Auschwitz Memorial’s magazine) Paweł Sawicki. 

It is a story of a Slovak Jewish who fell in love with a tattooed girl in a concentration camp. It is considered to be one of the bestsellers of the year. The writer states that the book is based on a true love and survival story. He also claims that the facts are based on a credible documentation. However, the organizing committee of the Auschwitz Memorial denies this, claiming that « this book contains many errors and information, exaggerations, misunderstandings and understatements that contradict the facts. » 

The nature of human memory, especially where the events recalled occurred over 70 years ago, requires confrontation with other sources. From today’s perspective, we can only regret that no specialist in the area of camp matters was invited to work on the book

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

For instance, according to the Auschwitz Memorial, many historical details of the camp are incorrect. One of the museum researchers Witek Malicka went through a seven page long that corresponds to many storylines from the route to the camp. She found out that transportation would not have been able to pass through Ostrava and Pszczyna. She also added that the use of a bus as a gas chamber has not been confirmed by any source. 

© the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Memorial. 

It is important to note that most of the prisoners’ numbers mentioned in the book are incorrect. It might seem banal but this particular aspect is very crucial to the story of Auschwitz. One of the journalists in the New York times states that the number Morris says was tattooed on Furman was 34902, but that Furman herself testified that her number was 4562. The memorial museum decided to recheck the whole history behind the novel because as a “based on a true story” book, most readers find it difficult to distinguish between facts and fiction. 

Given the number of factual errors, therefore, this book cannot be recommended as a valuable title for persons who want to explore and understand the history of KL Auschwitz

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

To conclude, the author was just inspired by the events of Auschwitz, he did not base his novel on real events. Therefore, the book has no value as a document. 

Author : Imad BAAZIZI

For further readings:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/dec/07/the-tattooist-of-auschwitz-attacked-as-inauthentic-by-camp-memorial-centre

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