This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Tattooist of Auschwitz" by Heather Morris. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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How can these The Tattooist of Auschwitz quotes help you get a better understanding of who Lale Sokolov was? How do they show Lale’s conflict about his privileged position within the camp?
The Tattooist of Auschwitz was written by Heather Morris and is based on a true story. These The Tattooist of Auschwitz quotes are not from the real Lale Sokolov, but are from the fictionalized characters in Morris’ book.
Keep reading for The Tattooist of Auschwitz quotes.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz Quotes From the Book
During World War II, six million Jews died at the hands of the Nazis—many at concentration camps. One of the worst camps was Auschwitz-Birkenau, where hundreds of thousands of Jews and other German enemies were imprisoned. Yet one man found a way to survive the camp. He became the tattooist, marking each arriving prisoner with a six-digit number that would become their new identity. This work protected him from the worst treatment and helped him meet the young woman he would fall madly in love with. The Tattooist of Auschwitz is the fictionalized harrowing tale of love and perseverance in one of the darkest moments in history.
Below are five The Tattooist of Auschwitz quotes.
“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.”
The first of The Tattooist of Auschwitz quotes is from when Lale received his own tattoo. When Lale arrives in Auschwitz, everything moves quickly. He is shoved into a line, processed, and roughly tattooed with the number 32407. He notices that all the men processing the workers are Jews, and they all wear the same striped pajamas. Lale stares at his tattoo and wonders how something like this is possible. He tries not to think about himself being reduced to nothing but this number, but he can’t help it.
“You want me to tattoo other men?”
“Someone has to do it.”
“I don’t think I could do that. Scar someone, hurt someone—it does hurt, you know.”
Pepan pulls back his sleeve to reveal his own number. “It hurts like hell. If you don’t take the job, someone will who has less soul than you do, and he will hurt these people more.”
Pepan offers Lale the opportunity to work with him. He says this work will help Lale survive. Lale doesn’t think he can do it. He remembers how it felt to be branded and doesn’t want to be the one to inflict that kind of pain on his people. But he realizes that if he doesn’t do it, someone who doesn’t care as much will and will hurt the men. Lale agrees.
“Should I be fearful, now that I am privileged? Why do I feel sad about leaving my old position in the camp, even though it offered me no protection? He wanders into the shadows of the half-finished buildings. He is alone.”
In this The first of The Tattooist of Auschwitz quote, Lale is conflicted. The tattooist job comes with other perks, not all of which Lale is happy about. His new room is the kapo’s quarters of an empty block near the construction zone. Stretching out in bed for the first time in months is a treat, but Lale misses the camaraderie of the men in Block 7. He also gets to take his meals in the administration building. The food is better than the prisoner slop, and he is offered a second portion as soon as he devours the first. Extra rations are allowed for political workers, so he takes a hunk of bread and hides it in his sleeve. Later, he gives the bread to Leon in Block 7 and promises to bring more for Leon and the others when he can.
“To save one is to save the world.”
Lale miraculously survives a bout of typhus. He was sick for seven days and his body was thrown in a pile of other dead bodies. Lale’s bunkmate, Aron, pulls his body out and saves his life.
Lale doesn’t understand why these men saved him. They tell him that Aron believed that Lale was the chosen one who would save him. So after Aron disappeared, they kept caring for him just in case Aron was right.
“If you wake up in the morning, it is a good day.”
This The Tattooist of Auschwitz quote is from the real Lale Sokolov. This is the motto Lale lived his life by after escaping the horrors of Auschwitz.
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Here's what you'll find in our full The Tattooist of Auschwitz summary :
- How a man used tattooing skills to stay alive at Auschwitz-Birkenau
- How Lale Sokolov fell in love in these unusual circumstances
- How Lale goes from concentration camp to Russian prisoner before finding freedom