The Ghost Tattoo

  • From the Publisher
January 8, 2023

A pow­er­ful, pro­found­ly mov­ing Holo­caust mem­oir from a rarely told per­spec­tive, this is the sto­ry of a fam­i­ly com­ing to terms with its long-hid­den wartime secret­sand — a son dis­cov­er­ing the Faus­t­ian bar­gain his Jew­ish father made with the Nazis in order to survive.

Grow­ing up, Tony Bernard knew that his father, Hen­ry, had been in Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camps dur­ing World War II. He was famil­iar with the tat­too bear­ing his Auschwitz num­ber — B1224 — and the faint scar result­ing from a sui­cide attempt while in a camp in Blizyn. As an Aus­tralian boy grow­ing up on Syd­ney’s sun­ny North­ern Beach­es where Hen­ry was a well-respect­ed doc­tor, Tony sim­ply accept­ed these facts. Only as a young man, on a trip to Poland with his father, did he begin to uncov­er the secrets that filled Hen­ry with regret, anguish, and guilt.

Hen­ry’s expe­ri­ences in the con­cen­tra­tion camps were har­row­ing, and he sur­vived through inge­nu­ity, grit, and count­less mir­a­cles of chance. Yet there was anoth­er, deep­er sto­ry — of what hap­pened before his depor­ta­tion to the camps. In 1940, Hen­ry was recruit­ed into the Jew­ish Order Ser­vice in his Pol­ish home­town — an orga­ni­za­tion set up by the Nazis to help main­tain order among Jews. Like many oth­er young recruits, Hen­ry believed he would help pro­tect his com­mu­ni­ty. Instead, the ghet­to police, as they became known, were forced to assist the Nazis in the sub­ju­ga­tion and mis­treat­ment of their own peo­ple. Faced dai­ly with impos­si­ble choic­es, des­per­ate to keep his loved ones alive, Hen­ry was both vic­tim and unwill­ing participant.

The Ghost Tat­too is a haunt­ing, emo­tion­al­ly res­o­nant mem­oir of war and its after­math. It is also a sin­gu­lar account of resis­tance, resilience, and hope. Hen­ry was even­tu­al­ly called to Ger­many to tes­ti­fy in a tri­al against Nazi mur­der­ers, where his evi­dence proved piv­otal. After decades of silence, he seized the chance to bear wit­ness – for his­to­ry, for his fam­i­ly, and for all those who did not survive.

Discussion Questions