A true story that needs to be told...
A few years ago I was introduced to (Lou) Lale Sokolov, and unearthed a story so moving, I knew I was spending time with ‘living history’.
For many months I visited Lale several times a week. I was getting his story out piecemeal, often told at bullet pace with limited coherency and with no flow or connection to the many, many vignettes he told.But it didn’t matter.I was beginning to make sense of the twisted convoluted story I was hearing, the significance and importance of which was beginning to dawn on me; sitting beside me was a Slovakian Jewish prisoner from Auschwitz who had tattooed thousands of prisoners in Auschwitz / Birkenau - that was his job!
In April 1942 Lale was taken, transported like an animal to an unknown place.That unknown place is now etched in history as a Dante-esque circle of hell – Auschwitz Concentration Camp.When his captors learnt he spoke several languages he was given the job of ‘Tetovierer’ – The German word for Tattooist, by the Political Wing of the SS.
I have no doubt that Lale harboured many secrets for over fifty years, but he placed his faith in me and was not only prepared to share a personal story of terrifying intensity, but was also prepared to embark on a journey of self-scrutiny in the process.
Two of the most feared men of their time Rudolf Hoess and Josef Mengele, infamous in history for their brutality, Lale laboured under. Mengele in particular was a common sight as he chose his ‘patients’ from the new arrivals sending them Lales way for defiling (tattooing).On many occasions while whistling an operatic tune, he would sidle up to Lale and loudly terrorise him, “One day Tetovierer I will take you – one day”.
For over two and a half years Lale witnessed acts of incredible bravery and compassion but always juxtaposed with acts of atrocities and barbarism.
But in this the most heinous of places, love bloomed... in July 1942 Lale, prisoner 32407, comforted a young girl while he tattooed the number 34902 on her arm. Her name was Gita, she in turn tattooed her love on his heart for all time.
For over fifty years Lale and Gita kept their prison romance to themselves.The horrors of surviving nearly 3 years in a concentration camp left them with a life-time of fear and paranoia.It was only after Gita’s death that Lale would speak of this time, and asked me to record the incredible story of the beginning of their life together.He also wanted Brad Pitt to play him and Natalie Portman he thought would be perfect for Gita.Oh how I loved his optimism.
Two independent script consultants have urged me to tell this story in novel format to promote its chance of being made into a feature film.I want to write it to tell in depth, the love story of Lale and Gita.From research carried out in Poland and Germany I have accessed several documents which verify and support Lale’s account of his time in Auschwitz.
I have written several screenplays, two of which have been optioned, one in Australia the other in the U.S.A.The Tattooist Screenplay was a semi-finalist in the 2014 Final Draft Screenwriting Competition.
Writing is my passion and I hope through Kickstarter to generate the funds to publish this story.I want to acknowledge the assistance I have received for several years from the folks at Instinct Entertainment in Melbourne.
With the bulk of the story written, albeit in screenplay format, it is now up to me to take the drama therein written, and transform it into a meaningful novel.I am already well on the way to completing this.What looms ahead for me are the costs associated with publishing, both electronically and in paper form.But before I get to that stage I need the assistance of an editor, someone who will read my words dispassionately and tell me what to leave out and what to expand on.Ralph Moser has done a wonderful job creating the front page graphic.I intend signing him up to polish the original and make it a truly stand out cover.Most of all, I want to bring Lale and Gita’s story to life and I need your help to make this happen.Thank you in advance.
Should I be successful in reaching my goal, I will use any extra funds in engaging a Script Consultant to help make the existing Screenplay marketable material.
Risks and challenges
It has been said that it cannot be possible for me to write a story so steeped in Jewish tragedy and not be Jewish myself. Lale told me he entrusted his story to me for that very reason ... I had no baggage ... I had no preconceptions of what it means to be Jewish. I believe this is a challenge I have overcome.
Drawing this story and its attendant memories from Lale was a challenging task. I was dealing with the notoriously fragile world of memory. I was needing to select and arrange Lale’s personal testament in a way of story-telling that is both true to his living memory and true to the facts uncovered.
It is important to identify how memory and history sometimes waltz in step and sometimes strain to part. I want to format the story in the context of an old man considering his younger self and what he endured
so that we walk with 85 year old Lale and feel his pain, his fear, his compassion, his love.
A successful version of the story as a Screenplay exists. The majority of the book has been written in a format and style I am very happy with, so the risks are relatively low that this project will not be completed.
Lale and Gita’s story chronicles the journey of two ordinary people living in an extraordinary time. Deprived not only of their freedom but their dignity, their identity and even their names, and how they survived and lived happily in Melbourne for another 50 years.
I want to make this book extra special, including in the body of the story both photographs and historical documents, both of which will add to the cost of production, but will also add so much to this historically significant testimony of a time and event which must never be forgotten.
I am humbled and honoured to be given the opportunity to tell the story of Lale and Gita.
Remember ... if you woke up this morning – it is a good day!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)