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NBC Insider The Tattooist of Auschwitz

How The Tattooist of Auschwitz Creators Portrayed Lali Sokolov's "Fractured" Recollection

Lali Sokolov recalled the events of his love story decades after his internment at Auschwitz. Here's how the creators portrayed his "fractured" memory of the events.

By Stephanie Gomulka

Bringing the harrowing life story of Lali Sokolov to the screen was no easy task for the cast and crew of The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

The new limited series bears the same title as Heather Morris’ famous book. The New Zealand author spoke to the Holocaust survivor for years about his time at the infamous concentration camp before his 2006 death. 

Executive Producer Claire Mundell found Sokolov's story to be intriguing to share, she told NBC Insider in an interview paired with Director and Co-Executive Producer Tali Shalom-Ezer.

RELATED: Everything To Know About The Peacock Limited Series The Tattooist of Auschwitz

“The message of hope and love that comes out of Lali and Gita’s story was so clear and it was so inspiring,” Mundell said.

Later she touched on more Holocaust education and awareness saying, "Using popular drama, we can at least try to, you know, connect with an audience and motivate an audience to...go and educate themselves after the show is over."

How Creators Navigated Holocaust Survivor Lali Sokolov’s “Fractured” Memories

Lali Sokolov in The Tattooist Of Auschwitz

The series switches between a young Sokolov (Jonah Hauer-King) at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp to an older Sokolov (Harvey Keitel) recalling his life to Morris (Melanie Lynskey). The young Gita is played by Anna Próchniak.

A “guiding light” for producers was going back to Sokolov’s testimony, according to Shalom-Ezer.

Details of Morris’ book have come under scrutiny for details like Gita’s number tattooed on her arm being incorrect, according to the Guardian.

For the creatives behind the series, they say the story they are telling is Lali's story.

“This story would never have existed had he not sat down and spent three years with Heather sharing his story,” Mundell said. “We began to realize that there was an opportunity here to not just tell one love story, but two love stories in a way because…he spent so much time with Heather.”

Heather Morris and Lali Sokolov in The Tattooist Of Auschwitz

Within those conversations and the scenes shared between Morris and Sokolov, they found an opportunity, Mundell said.

“…to portray the nature of trauma and fractured memory that, you know exists in someone like him who is a survivor, and a survivor carrying a lot of complicated guilt, really,” Mundell said about capturing Sokolov’s story.

Actors, Producers on the “Impossible” Task of Recreating “Hell” in The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Jonah Hauer-King and Anna Prochniak in The Tattooist Of Auschwitz

Attempting to tell a story depicted in the largest Nazi German concentration camp was no easy task and one they took very seriously, according to producers and members of the cast.

“We knew that we will never be able to recreate Auschwitz,” Shalom-Ezer said about the challenging process. “It’s just impossible…to recreate this hell. This death factory, so then we had to choose how we’re gonna do it.”

A key part of the process was finding the right tone for the show, Mundell explained.

“How do you balance a love story, in that environment?”

Mundell said it was a question they asked themselves repeatedly.

“We want to bring an audience to this place, and we need to keep them there and take the on a journey, but we have a responsibility to, as far as we possibly can, to give some sense of the nature of that place.”

Filming was “tough” and “draining,” according to Próchniak.

“It was very challenging,” Próchniak said. “It took a toll on everyone, all the cast and crew.”

For Hauer-King (The Little Mermaid), it was “impossible” to not let the “deeply upsetting” story impact him as they worked on set.

“We kept trying to check our own privilege,” Hauer-King said. “I think you have to be quite cold and numb to not allow this to profoundly impact you and find it quite upsetting.”

He found Sokolov to be a character committed to helping those around him, Hauer-King said.

“In these impossible situations…and given these choices that we could never imagine, and he had a real sensitivity to him and also a playfulness,” Hauer-King said of Sokolov. “We learned how cheeky he was and flirtatious and charismatic and all of these wonderful qualities that I think somehow he managed to hold onto in different ways.”

All six episodes of the limited series The Tattooist of Auschwitz are available on Peacock