‘The Tattooist Of Auschwitz’ review: moving romance amid the horrors of the Holocaust

‘The Tattooist Of Auschwitz’ review: moving romance amid the horrors of the Holocaust

“In the camp there were also good things; people with good hearts.” This line from The Tattooist Of Auschwitz, the series based on the novel about life in the concentration camp, captures the whole thing very neatly. Even in what might be the worst place that humanity has ever known, there were rays of pure light.

The line is said by Lali Sokolov (Jonah Hauer-King), whose life story Heather Morris turned into a bestselling book after spending hundreds of hours interviewing him. Lali – born Ludwig Eisenberg – was able to live a comparatively protected life in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the biggest of the Nazi death camps, after he became one of the men tasked with tattooing numbers onto prisoners’ arms. In the show it isn’t long before he realises that his position means he is unlikely to be randomly shot in the head like so many of his friends and fellow Jews. He is even taken under the wing of Nazi guard Stefan Baretzki (Jonas Nay), who seems to need Lali’s company in some way.

We see Lali’s harrowing story in flashbacks to the camp and in conversations between Heather (Melanie Lynskey) and the ageing Lali (Harvey Keitel). The treatment of the flashbacks is interesting, deliberately misleading as they often are. Both Keitel and Lynskey are excellent, haunted by the ghosts their characters are slowly digging up together. Their conversations are a welcome break from the grey, unrelenting misery of the camp’s reality – a reality from which the prisoners’ only respite was death.

Lali, played by Harvey Keitel in flashbacks. CREDIT: Sky

A documentary on Auschwitz would rightly focus on the unimaginable horror to the exclusion of all else. But The Tattooist Of Auschwitz allows us to watch Lali fall in love with fellow inmate Gita (Anna Prochniak), and enjoy snatched moments with her thanks to the relaxing of rules by Baretzki and another guard – both of whom are susceptible to bribery. Hauer-King and Prochniak sell this romance convincingly. “God can’t help us, Lali,” says Gita, “but we can help God. We can show him that love still exists, even here.” Lali, who believed in God before arriving, tells Baretzki that he no longer does. It is impossible not to agree with him. While the story is a fictionalised version of events, there is no fanciful invention and very little sentiment. People must have fallen in love in Auschwitz, as Lali and Gita did, and it must have been as agonising and wonderful as it is depicted here. We may never know if a woman giving birth caused a Nazi guard to display a glimmer of humanity but it is a bit of hope to cling onto in an otherwise wretched picture.

Every depiction of Auschwitz is difficult to stomach and to say that you had enjoyed it might not be the right choice of words. But The Tattooist Of Auschwitz is rich, important television, concerned with some of the deepest moral questions we can ask ourselves as a species. Lali and Gita are its heroes, and this is a fitting tribute.

‘The Tattooist Of Auschwitz’ is on Sky Atlantic and NOW from May 2

The post ‘The Tattooist Of Auschwitz’ review: moving romance amid the horrors of the Holocaust appeared first on NME.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous post “I was terrible to work with, I was unsympathetic, aggressive, mean, selfish, egotistical.” The Police were never friends, so Sting discovering coke circa Ghost In The Machine was always going to end badly
Next post Jeff Fresh brings much needed new flavor to the music industry

Goto Top