Terrific story, but best described as a memoir rather than true non-fiction. Morris's work unfortunately suffers from a lack of fact checking.
In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.
Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.
One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her, and marry they did.
Tattooist is a vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation--to put it charitably--of Lale Sokolov’s experiences. Unfortunately, its power is undermined by an apparent lack of fact checking by Morris and her editor. What tipped me off that something might be amiss was Morris's retelling of Sokolov's surreptitious acquisition of penicillin from a Polish day laborer in the camp in 1943. Though penicillin was invented in 1928, it was a closely guarded wonder drug by the British and Americans during the war and did not, in fact, become widely available until after the end of the war and, even then, was limited largely to the United States. The idea that Sokolov obtained penicillin from a Polish peasant within the confines of Auschwitz is highly improbable, if not fantastic. Other problems have been pointed out by other reviewers, more sophisticated than me. The Auschwitz Memorial Research Centre has pointed out several inaccuracies in the book, including, incredibly, Morris's getting Sokolov's own tattoo number wrong.