The Ghost Tattoo (Hardcover)

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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.

About the Author

Tony Bernard is an emergency doctor at Northern Beaches Hospital and Mona Vale Hospital in Sydney, Australia. His father, Henry, was his hero, and it was natural that he followed him into the medical profession. Yet it was one thing to idolize Henry, and another to understand who he was and what he had gone through. Over decades and during multiple trips to Europe, Tony found himself on a path of discovery, eventually writing his father’s memoirs shortly before his death in 2016. What began as a journey to understand his father became the uncovering of an extraordinary Holocaust survival story. Additional documents and photographs relevant to Henry’s story can be viewed online at

Praise For…

Praise for The Ghost Tattoo

“This extraordinary narrative is a powerful instance of the transgenerational impact of the Holocaust, but, above all, a remarkable examination of the position of a Ghetto Policeman and the guilt he carried, if he survived, into later life.” —Thomas Keneally, New York Times bestselling author of Schindler’s List
“Bernard’s narrative combines recollections of a childhood spent adoring his father (even as his parents’ marriage couldn’t withstand Henry’s obsessive behavior and bouts of melancholy) and Henry’s harrowing story, which is full of crushing moments, including his futile attempt to save his mother from being transported to a death camp. The result is a standout new addition to the literature of the Holocaust.” Publishers Weekly

“In the spirit of the very best of Holocaust literature, The Ghost Tattoo is intensively moving, exhaustively researched, and rendered in almost cinematographic detail. This search for the truth grips from the very first page. Deeply evocative and truly revelatory, it taught me so much. I will need to return again and again, to relearn, refresh, and remember.” —Damien Lewis, internationally bestselling author
“Henry Bernard, a Jewish medical student in France, races back to his family in Poland just before the outbreak of World War II. Considered by his father to be incorruptible, Henry feels duty-bound to join the collaborationist Jewish police of his town to mediate between the local Jews and the German invaders. The Ghost Tattoo is a riveting account of his impossible moral choices as a small-town Jewish policeman in Nazi-occupied Poland when faced with the horrifying cascade of anti-Jewish laws, oppression, plunder, daily shootings, and ultimate mass murder of the Jews of his town. The story is masterfully written by his son, Tony Bernard, who struggles to uncover this painful history through his father’s first-hand testimony. Tony strives to come to grips with the full range and implications of his father’s personhood and penetrate the post-traumatic cloud that hung over their supposed happy-ever-after life as two generations of beloved doctors in Australia. This is a unique and monumental work—at once heartbreaking and heartwarming.” —Scott Lenga, author of The Watchmakers
“The Ghost Tattoo documents the incredible personal story of Henry Bierzynski Bernard and his struggles to survive the ghettos and concentration camps, as well as his post-war life in Australia. Told by his son, Tony Bernard, the author brings to life singular insights into many aspects of the war and resistance not often told with such honesty and fervor. While the book naturally portrays brutal events that make reading it difficult at times, it is beautifully written and is a powerful tribute to his father’s fortitude.” —Adena Bernstein Astrowsky, author of Living among the Dead: My Grandmother’s Holocaust Survival Story of Love and Strength

“Can anyone truly grasp the enormity of the Holocaust, other than those who experienced it? To comprehend the scale of evil and suffering is one thing; to fathom the dilemmas faced by survivors is entirely another. Author Tony Bernard tried, as part of his quest to understand the demons that haunted his father. The result is a brilliant memoir that joins the essential canon of this awful moment in human history.” —Tom Young, author of Silver Wings, Iron Cross and Red Burning Sky

Product Details
ISBN: 9780806542584
ISBN-10: 0806542586
Publisher: Citadel
Publication Date: September 26th, 2023
Pages: 336
Language: English