New series The Tattooist of Auschwitz sees Jonah Hauer-King takes the lead as Holocaust survivor Lale Sokolov in his wartime years in what is an extraordinary true love story.


Played by Harvey Keitel as an older man, the Holocaust survivor is the subject of the new prestige drama, which is now available to stream.

The Sky Atlantic original explores his relationship with fellow prisoner Gita Fuhrmannova and is based on the same-named 2018 best-selling novel by Heather Morris, who spent three years interviewing Lale for a tale which blurred the boundaries between history and historical fiction.

Indeed, the author was criticised by the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center for the book's depiction of life inside the concentration camp, also noting some inaccuracies, including Gita's incorrect identification number and the anachronistic use of penicillin.

Morris fought back, however, insisting that "Ninety-five per cent of it is as it happened; researched and confirmed".

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Here's what we do know, for sure, about Lale's remarkable story.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz true story

Origin story

Jonah Hauer-King as Lali Sokolov in Auschwitz, walking through Auschwitz
Jonah Hauer-King as Lali Sokolov in Auschwitz. Sky

Born Ludwig Eisenberg in the Slovakian town of Krompachy in 1916, Lale was working as a department store manager in Bratislava when World War II broke out.

On learning that Nazis were sending all his hometown's Jewish people to camps, he returned to the family home and volunteered himself to the local authority, hoping this would guarantee the safety of his mother, father and siblings (unbeknownst to Lale, his parents were taken to Auschwitz and killed a month before his own arrival).

Lale was transported to the concentration camp in April 1942 and immediately put to work on its housing block construction. Soon after, he contracted typhoid. But during his recovery, he was mentored by a French academic named Pepan, the same man who'd inked his ID number of 32407 onto his forearm on arrival.

When Pepan suddenly disappeared, Lale was appointed as his replacement, as an official member of the Politische Abteilung (aka the Concentration Camp Gestapo).

The job of the tetovierer (the tattooist) sheltered him further from the many horrors his fellow prisoners witnessed or experienced. It also came with several benefits, including additional rations, spare time and his own bedroom.

Lale tried to use these for the greater good, often handing out his extra food to those who needed it more and trading with local villagers for contraband he could distribute back into camp.

And there was one particular individual who he did his utmost best to care for.

Meeting Gita

Lale and Gita standing close together behind one of the blocks. He is looking down and holding her hands in his as she looks over her shoulder.
Jonah Hauer-King as Lali Sokolov as Anna Próchniak as Gita Furman in Auschwitz. Martin Mlaka / Sky UK

Lale first set eyes on Gita in July 1942 while she was lining up to get tattooed, a practice designed to rob hundreds of thousands of prisoners of their identities. Still only in his apprenticeship stage by then, the Slovakian initially hesitated to ink the 18-year-old, but was warned that if he didn't, his own life would be at risk (on one occasion, Angel of Death physician Josef Mengele told him: "One day, tetovierer, I will take you – one day").

The encounter left a lasting impression on Lale, and over the next three years, he did whatever he could to spend more time with her.

With the help of his personal SS guard, Lale and Gita were able to exchange correspondence and on Sundays – prisoners' only day of rest – even enjoyed clandestine meetings outside her housing block.

Their relationship looked to have ended when, shortly before Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz in January 1945, Lale was relocated to Austria's Mauthausen concentration camp. However, following a miraculous escape in which he evaded Russian and German crossfire while swimming the Danube, he found his way back to his homeland.

He then set out on another seemingly mission impossible: to find the woman who’d captured his heart.

The reunion

Lale sat in his apartment with his hands brought up to his face in a prayer gesture.
Harvey Keitel as Lale Sokolov in The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Martin Mlaka / Sky UK

After journeying to Bratislava via horse and cart, Lale spent several weeks at the city's railway station – an entry point for Holocaust survivors – without any luck, before he was told to try the Red Cross. In a remarkable coincidence, he spotted Gita en route and they instantly reconnected.

By the end of the year, the pair had walked down the aisle together and shortly after, they set up a silk fabric factory. Sadly, they had to wait a few more years to get a truly happy ending.

Indeed, the Soviet-controlled Czech government confiscated all of Lale's assets and imprisoned him after discovering he'd been donating money to support the movement for an Israeli state.

On his release, Lale and Gita were advised to leave the country, and following brief spells in Paris and Vienna, they ended up settling in Melbourne in 1948.

Starting from scratch again, the couple opened a ladies' clothing factory and in 1961 became parents, with the birth of only child Gary.

Lale largely kept quiet about his harrowing past, over fears he'd be viewed as a Nazi sympathiser. Yet, following Gita's death in 2003, he felt able to unburden himself and revealed all to Morris.

Lale had planned to return to Europe for the first time in more than half a century to further help conquer his demons, but sadly in 2006, he passed away.

Speaking to Publishers Weekly about the book that arrived 12 years later, Morris said: "He wrongly felt it was his fault that he couldn't save the souls who died there. Lale's motto in Auschwitz was, 'If you wake up in the morning, it is a good day.'

"He believed you owed it to yourself and those around you to make the day the best it could be."

All six episodes of The Tattooist of Auschwitz are available on Sky Atlantic from May 2 – check out our Drama hub for all the latest news. Sign up for Sky TV here.


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