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By Shira Bartov
(JTA) January 17, 2024 — The story of real Auschwitz survivor Lali Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew who was forced to tattoo numbers on his fellow inmates and implausibly fell in love with a girl he was tattooing, is coming to TV on May 2.
“The Tattooist of Auschwitz,” a six-part original series based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Heather Morris, will air on Peacock in the United States. The show stars Academy Award nominee Harvey Keitel, renowned for his collaborations with Martin Scorcese, Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson, as Sokolov.
English actor Jonah Hauer-King of “The Little Mermaid” and Polish actress Anna Próchniak of “Baptiste” star as the younger versions of Sokolov and his eventual wife Gita Furman in the drama series, which is executive produced by Claire Mundel and directed by Tali Shalom-Ezer.
Morris, whose 2018 novel “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” was inspired by interviews with Sokolov before his death in 2006, also appears as a character played by Emmy Award nominee Melanie Lynskey (“The Last of Us,” “Yellowjackets”).
Despite selling over 12 million copies around the world with the tagline that it was “based on the powerful true story of love and survival,” Morris’s novel drew criticism for inauthentic portrayals of Auschwitz. A report from Wanda Witek-Malicka of the Auschwitz Memorial Research Centre pointed out several historical inaccuracies in the book, ranging from a sexual relationship between an SS commander and a Jewish prisoner to a storyline about penicillin (which was not widely available at the time) to the incorrect number tattooed on Furman’s arm. The book also changed the spelling of Sokolov’s first name from Lali to Lale; the movie has changed it back.
The creators of the Peacock series say they made efforts to authentically reproduce a love story in Auschwitz, visiting the death camp to recreate the historical location and casting Jewish actors as their stars.
“It was important that both young and old Lali were played authentically by Jewish actors who were able to deliver the part with nuance, empathy, compassion, and the complexity that we need from that character,” said Shalom-Ezer.
The series will air on Sky Atlantic in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.