It was a real concern after the tatood - many saw the prisoners who worked for the SS at the camps as having taken part in their brutality. He said he wasn't told he could have this job or that job,'' says Morris. You took it and you were grateful because it meant that you might wake up the next morning. For the next two years, Lale would tattoo hundreds of thousands of prisoners, with the help of assistants.
These forced tattoos, the s shaky and stark against pale forearms, have become one of the most recognisable symbols of the Holocaust and its deadliest camp. At first, a metal stamp was used to imprint the entire into the skin. Ink was rubbed into the wound.
When prisoners arrived at Auschwitz, they were selected either for forced labour or immediate execution. Llooking exchanged their clothes for rags, and then lined up to receive their mark from the tetovierer. Lookijg only exceptions to this branding were the "re-education" prisoners of German ethnic origin and those sent directly to the gas chambers. It was the final peg in the brutal "registration" process, says Dr Piotr Setkiewicz, head of the research centre at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum.
From this time on, the prisoners did not use officially their names. They had to use their s.
It's July and Lale is handed another lookng of paper. In front of him are five digits: 3 4 9 0 2. Tattooing men is one thing, but when he holds the thin arm of a young girl in his hands, he feels horrified. He has not yet been made the tetovierer. Pepan urges him to do as he's told. If he doesn't, he will condemn himself to death. Years later, Lale will tell Morris how in that moment, as he tattooed her on her left arm, she tattooed her in his heart.
With the help of Lale's personal SS guard, he would smuggle letters to her. Letters led to secretive visits outside her block. He tried to take care of her, sneaking her his extra rations, even getting her moved to a better work station. He tried to give her hope.
He always, deep down, knew that he was going to survive. He didn't know how, but it comes back to that whole notion of being a survivor. He's a survivor because of luck, being in the right place at the right time, and being able to manipulate opportunities that he saw. Knowing he was one of the lucky ones, Lale tried to help as many fellow prisoners as he could in his capacity as tetovierer. Food was the currency of Auschwitz, and he used his privileged rations to feed his former blockmates, Gita's friends, and the Roma families that arrived later on.
He began trading jewels and cor - given to him by other prisoners - with the villagers who worked near the camp to obtain more food and provisions for the most needy. Inthe Nazis began shipping prisoners out of the death camp before the Russians arrived. Gita was one of the women lookign to leave Auschwitz. The woman he had fallen in love with was gone.
Lale knew only her name - Gita Fuhrmannova - but not where she had come from.
Lale eventually also left the camp and made his way back to his hometown of Krompachy in Czechoslovakia. He paid his way with the jewels he'd managed to steal from the Nazis. His sister Goldie had survived and so his childhood house still belonged to his family. The only thing left was to find out what happened to Gita. Could he dare to hope that he would ever find her again?
In a horse and cart, he set off for Bratislava, the entry point for many survivors returning home to Czechoslovakia. Lale waited at the railway station for weeks, until the stationmaster advised him to go to the Red Cross instead.
On his way there, a young woman stepped into the street in front of his horse. It was a familiar face. A pair of bright eyes. The couple married in October and changed their last name to Sokolov to better fit into Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia. Lale set up a textile shop that was successful for a time. But they had been collecting and sending money out of the country to support the movement for an Israeli state.
They went first to Vienna, then Paris, and finally, in an effort to get as far away from Europe as they could, set sail for Sydney. During the journey, they met a couple from Melbourne and were convinced to start a new life there.
Lale started a textile business again, and Fro began deing dresses. Inthey had a son, Gary. Gita visited Europe a few times before she died in Lale, on the other hand, never returned. Who falls in love in a concentration camp? In fact, the full truth came to light only after Gita's death, when Morris came into the picture. Gary was searching for someone to tell his father's story and found Morris through a network of friends.
Morris is not Jewish and that, she says, is why Lale - myy was then 87 - chose to share his story with her. He needed somebody who was perhaps naive, and who would hear his story and accept his story for how he was going to tell it. Over the next three years, Morris would visit Lale several times a week. Most of what he remembered matched her own research. In addition to Lale and Gita's love story, the Tattooist of Auschwitz, the book Morris has written, brings to light a new piece of Holocaust history.
The process of corroborating the anecdotes Morris gathered from Lale was key.
Initially the novel was meant to be a screenplay. The entire process takes about three months. I just knew he wanted this preservation done. I had to set aside my own emotion to get this part done. Because Chris had large tattoos covering much of his body, Kyle Sherwood flew to Saskatoon, a city in the Canadian prairies, to oversee the process himself. Most tattoos the company handles are on a smaller scale - individual pieces that measure a few inches across - and "with that we are comfortable with the funeral home and their embalmer removing or surgically excising the tattoo," he says.
Ms Wenzel chose the pieces to be preserved - two full sleeve tattoos including the top of Chris' hands, his throat and chest piece, his full back piece, two thigh pieces and calf piece.
The fledgling company has also faced scepticism from some funeral tartood, with Mr Sherwood saying that oooking "old-school funeral directors" have been resistant to the novel idea. Mr Sherwood said the company ensures the entire process is completed with dignity, and that it will only work on professionally done tattoos. Ms Wenzel has displayed her late husband's body art at tattoo conventions in Saskatoon and in Vancouver, and plans to do the same this summer at a convention in St John's, Newfoundland.
She says he wanted his preserved artwork to serve as a reminder that life continues after death but that those left behind never forget the loved ones they lost. To me it was like bringing my husband back.
I get to lookong him everyday," she says. Readers may find an image below distressing. Before he died, he had a request: he wanted his tattoos preserved.
It took them two years to develop their specific technique. Tattoo taboo: Spanish woman fights rejection by army. Ms Wenzel sought out the Sherwoods' help following her husband's death. It was the largest tattoo preservation the Sherwoods had done. Kyle Sherwood says his work provokes three kinds of reactions. And finally, "you have the people that absolutely love it". And he says it's not usually obvious the art is preserved on a very unique canvas.