Who was Lale Sokolov? | The concentration camp survivor featured in The Tattooist of Auschwitz

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a new drama series currently airing on Sky Atlantic in the UK and Peacock in the US. It tells the story of a man named Lale Sokolov (Jonah Hauer-King), a Slovakian Jew, who, in 1942, is deported to Auschwitz, where he becomes one of the tattooists charged with inking identification numbers onto prisoners’ arms. 

Approximately 1.1 million people were murdered at the concentration camp but Lale (Lali) survived. Another survivor was Gisela “Gita” Fuhrmannova, whom Lale met when she queued up to be tattooed. The two of them fell in love at the camp but were separated when Lale was relocated elsewhere. 

Their love story didn’t begin and end at Auschwitz as you’ll know if you have seen the series or read the book by Heather Morris, which is based on testimony given by Lale Sokolov. 

If you have been inspired by Lale’s story, you might be interested in learning more about him. In this article, we go behind the story of the series and give you insight into the real-life concentration camp survivor who inspired it.


Who was Lale Sokolov?

Lale Sokolov (birth name Ludwig Eisenberg) was born on 28 October 1916 in Korompa, Hungary (now Slovakia).

In his adult life, Lale had a natural ability with languages, which served him well when he became a businessman. He became the manager of a department store in Bratislava but his work ceased when he became one of the many Jewish people who were rounded up and deported to Auschwitz. 

What happened at Auschwitz?

Upon his arrival, Lale was tattooed with the number 32407 by a French academic named Pepan. He was then tasked with constructing housing blocks for the camp but when he became ill with typhoid, he was made one of the Tätowierers (tattooists) who were charged with inking identification numbers onto the arms of prisoners.

In 1942, while tattooing the arms of a new group of female prisoners, he met a young woman named Gisela (Gita) Furman. After tattooing her arm, the two fell in love, and they began to smuggle letters to one another via an SS officer named Baretski. They also spent time together on a Sunday, the camp’s rest day.

Lale witnessed many atrocities at the camp, including scenes of prisoners being marched to the gas chambers. He survived that fate, as did Gita, but their relationship ended another way when Lale was deported to Austria’s Mauthausen concentration camp.

Eventually, Lale made a daring escape by swimming the Danube while the war raged around him. He made his way back to Slovakia, where he couldn’t get the love for Gita out of his head.

Did Lale meet Gita again?

When the war ended, Lale set forth to Bratislava, where he hoped to find Gita. The two of them met by coincidence when she stepped in front of his horse and cart. In October 1945, they married and settled in Bratislava where Lale opened a silk fabric company. 

When communists nationalized private businesses, Lale had his factory taken away from him. After a stint in prison for collecting money in support of the creation of the State of Israel, he was advised to leave Slovakia. He did as suggested and together with Gita, moved to Australia in 1948, where they opened a factory making ladies’ clothing in Melbourne.

What happened to Lale Sokolov?

Lale and Gita had a son in 1961, whom they named Gary. As far as we know, the two had a happy life together until Gita died in 2003. 

After Gita passed, he spoke about his wartime experiences to Heather Morris, which resulted in the publication of The Tattooist of Auschwitz in 2018. More about Lale’s story can be found in the book, although parts of it have been fictionalized. 

Lale died in 2006 at the age of 90. To learn more about his story and the new dramatization of his love story with Gita, check out our episode recaps here


Read More: Is The Tattooist of Auschwitz based on a true story?

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