Friday, October 07, 2011

Sarah's key

The movie called "The Key", based on the best-selling novel "Sarah's key" by Tatiana de Rosnay, documents in vivid detail the rounding up of the Jews of Paris by the French police in July 1942. By focusing on one family it shows how they were peremptorily arrested and forced into the Velodrome d'Hiver, a cycling arena, with no water, food or sanitation. An estimated 13,152 Jews were incarcerated there under terrible conditions for days, guarded by French police, who would not allow them any water or food! Some commited suicide, others simply died. After 5 days they started sending the Jews to various holding camps, guarded by French police, until the men, women and children were separated and shipped off by train to Aushwitz to be murdered by the Nazis.

The complicity of the French police and nation in this disgusting and inhuman action has been apologized for (finally) by Pres. Chirac in 1995, but is it enough? The Velodrome was demolished years ago but there is a plaque and a statue to commemorate the event. The story of "Sarah's key" is that in order to save her younger brother, the little girl Sarah locks him in a secret cupboard, expecting to be back in a few days. But, of course she is trapped in the camps, but tries desperately to escape in order to save him. She is taken in by a French farming family, who take her back to Paris to find him, but of course by the time they open the door of the cupboard the child is dead.

The story is told through flashbacks and is revealed by an American reporter played by Kirsten Scott Thomas, whose husband lived in the apartment that was abandoned by Sarah's family. She reveals the history of the apartment and traces the girl to America, where after marrying and having a son she committed suicide. When the reporter traces the son to Italy and reveals his background to him he at first completely rejects it, he had no idea of the real story since his mother never told him and never revealed that he is in fact Jewish. Only after his dying father confirms the story and gives him his mother's diaries and documentation does he realize the truth of the story and does he accept the facts of his background.

So many of those who survived the Holocaust felt it was too dangerous to let their children know that they were Jewish and kept it secret from them, even in the comparative safety of America. Can we ever recover from this great evil?


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