Monday, July 20, 2020

The Tatooist of Auschwitz

I am not drawn to Holocaust stories.  I saw Schindler's List, alone, in Marin, and couldn't talk for hours afterwards.  When I took Big Cuter to see it, hea asked to leave when the little boy was shot, and the red blood fell onto the snow.  As we, shakily, walked out, an older wman in an aisle seat met my eye and nodded a knowing smile.

It was important that he see it.  It was really too hard to watch.
G'ma made me join her on the couch one night.  We sat together, watching films taken by the liberators of the concentration camps.  The black and white images of corpses stacked like firewood are still stored in my brain; I don't let myself go any further into that box. 
My Cousin Noomi fled the backyard when our cat wandered through the family reunion.  G'ma told us not to worry; Noomi was remembering what she had had to eat in The Camps and it made her sad.

The reality of what I'd seen on the television was sitting in a lawn chair under my pin oak tree.  It was enough to make a tween's head explode.
One of my favorite patients at Sloan-Kettering was a Holocaust survivor, as was his older brother.  I promised my mother I would keep him safe, was the older one's constant refrain.  He'd been a sonderkommando, he dared to tell me one day, in my office, with the door closed.  It kept them both alive.

Is the word unfamiliar to you?  The Sonderkommano took the bodies from the gas chambers to the crematoria.  They were fed and clothed and housed well enough to keep their strength to do their jobs.  The Tatooist, too, was fed and housed and protected, because he was necessary.  He vowed to come out alive, and did what he had to do in order to get there. 
So why did I read the book?  It was a freebie on my Kindle, and the next new book in my queue.  The sun was out and my belly was full and my heart was light; I couldn't have read it if I were in a Covid Funk.

But it turns out to be a horror story wrapped in a blanket of love.  The love is everywhere, even in the beatings.  Despicable acts follow random kindnesses; I cried and I laughed and I exclaimed aloud as I zipped through the pages today.

It's a love story and a history tale, a reminder of the depravity of man and a beacon of light in a dark season. 



  1. You might consider reading Carl A. Hammerschlag's books. We are just finishing Kindling Spirit. His earlier book, The Theft of the Spirit, was where he discussed his coming to peace with what he blamed the Germans for what they did to his people, the Jews. His immediate family got out before it went more diabolical. He works with the Native Americans and uses spirituality to find peace with what has been in his life and the world.

    1. My library doesn't have it, but Amazon Smile does! Thanks for the recommendation. I could use some peace in my world right now.

  2. I have seen enough movies and news reels and read enough books on the Holocaust that I never need to see more. That kind of inhumanity is incomprehensible to me and I am not Jewish. It doesn't matter that they were not my people. They were people. I will never understand antisemitism.


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