The Tattooist of Auschwitz: Is Leon Based on a Real Person? What Happens to Him?

In Peacock’s ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz,’ a man finds the love of his life in a place where people struggle to find their will to live. Lali Sokolov is made the tattooist, and every day, many hands pass through him, each receiving a number that would define the next couple of years of their lives. One day, he holds the hand of a girl named Gita and falls in love. As his romance with Gita blossoms, despite all hurdles in their path, Lali also forges bonds of a lifetime with several other people in the camps. One of them is a young man named Leon. SPOILERS AHEAD

Leon is Based on Lali Sokolov’s Real Assistant at Auschwitz-Birkenau

‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ recounts the real story of Lali Sokolov, which he shared with author Heather Morris. In his accounts, he told her about several people whom he became close to and who impacted his journey in major ways. Leon was one of them, becoming a brother-like figure for Lali. However, in his account, the full name of Leon was not mentioned. Or if it was, Morris didn’t share it in the book. Due to this, any known account of Leon is limited to the one shared by Lali.

There was a real-life survivor of Auschwitz, with the name of Leon Greenman. However, he was not the Leon mentioned in Lali’s story, due to several reasons. First of all, Lali’s Leon was a Slovakian, while Greenman was a British citizen who was wrongfully incarcerated because he had lost his passport. Lali’s Leon was much younger, while Greenman had a wife and a child when they were brought to the camps. None of his family survived it. Most importantly, Lali was placed at Auschwitz-Birkenau, while Greenman was at Auschwitz-Buchenwald.

While it is difficult to ascertain more details about Leon and his eventual fate due to the lack of enough information about him, Lali’s telling of the story sets a lot of things in the right picture. For example, in the book, Leon, like several other people at the camp, falls victim to the illegal and deadly experiments of Dr. Schumann. In real life, Auschwitz-Birkenau was under Josef Mengele, called the Angel of Death, who was known for his cruel practices and experiments on victims, without caring what impact his actions would have on them, physically and mentally. Leon also fell to one of those experiments.

Leon Does Not Survive the Camp

Leon’s fate was sealed when the eyes of Dr. Schumann fell on him. One day, while tattooing patients at the infirmary, Leon starts to hum a tune to calm his nerves. When the doctor hears it, he is amused, and with this, he sets his sights on the young man.

Days later, Leon is called upon. To save him, Lali tries to volunteer in his stead, but the doctor refuses his offer and asks Leon to follow him. There is no other choice because even though Leon has some idea of what may or may not happen to him, he cannot revolt because it would mean certain death. For a moment, Lali thinks Leon is done for, but luckily, his friend returns. He reveals that while the doctor didn’t kill him, what he did was still very painful. It turns out that the doctor castrated Leon.

At the end of the show, Lali and Leon walk out of Auschwitz together in a death march and are later separated at another camp to which they had been transported. In the book, however, which tells of Lali’s real experiences, Leon was taken away from Auschwitz way before Lali left it. One day, he was informed by a guard named Stefan Bartezki that Leon was “gone.” Though no explanation was given as to where he might have been taken, Lali took it as a sign that his friend was most likely dead. It remains unclear what really became of Leon, but Lali never saw him again.

Read More: The Tattooist of Auschwitz: Where is the Peacock Show Filmed?