CLIO History Society Welcomes Mark Young

CLIO History Society Welcomes Mark Young

This week in CLIO History Society we were thrilled to welcome Mark Young. Mark was executive producer of the Sky production of ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz,’ starring Jonah Hauer King and Anna Próchniak, based on the bestselling novel of the same title by Heather Morris. The novel follows the story of Holocaust survivor Lali Sokolov and how he met his future wife Gita in Auschwitz. Mark explained that there was something very enticing about the juxtaposition between the beautiful love story between the pair and the horrors they faced during their stay in the prison camp. He described how once he had finished reading the book he knew instantly he wanted to create a show based upon it.

Mark instantly set about buying the rights to the novel and then explained to us the creative process of considering what needed to be perpetuated in the show that perhaps wasn’t emphasised enough in the book. This is due to the fact Heather Morris’ novel faced scrutiny from the Auschwitz Memorial over the challenges and permutations of presenting such a story.

Nonetheless, Mark emphasised how the novel was marketed and sold as fiction. Although the book by Morris is based upon the life of a real survivor Lali Sokolov, Mark made sure to emphasise the unreliability of memory and how trauma and age can blur events in a way that makes them inaccurate. To portray this in the show, producers created a dual timeline that did not exist in the book. While one timeline explored the events that occurred in Auschwitz (with young Lali) the other is an elderly Lali telling his story to Heather Morris after the death of his wife Gita. Occasionally Lali admits to Heather he has lied to her about events, out of guilt or to attempt to conceal the extent of the horrors he faced – when this occurs the same scene runs again with the ‘true’ line of events. This is incredibly effective in the show and accentuates how the story is composed solely of Lali’s memory.

During the creation of the show, Mark discussed how he visited Auschwitz three times to learn more about the history of the camp. He revealed that when survivors came to visit the camp tour guides were frequently told stories of key officers such as Himmler and Goebbels visiting. The guides however report this is impossible, again highlighting the inaccuracies of memories. Mark then went on to explain tackling some factual inaccuracies in the show. For example, the journey Lali takes in the book to Auschwitz from Hungary is described as one train journey, but in the show, Lali takes multiple trains from unnamed stations to emphasise accuracy.

Mark finished by explaining how he felt it was the broadcaster’s responsibility to teach history as accurately as possible rather than the individual having to research events for themselves to avoid misinformation. Overall, the talk was incredibly touching and to those who have not watched the new show The Tattooist of Auschwitz, we strongly advise you to do so.

We thank Mark for taking the time to speak to the society and are most grateful for his wisdom and erudition.

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