“She bent her chin to her chest. She mumbled something I did not catch. It sounded like, ‘Shame on us all for not having stopped it.'”
“Sorry for not knowing. Sorry for being forty-five years old and not knowing.”
Oh, this book is so sad. So, so good but so, so sad. I read it in about twenty four hours, then immediately gave my copy to a friend. I will never be able to bring myself to reread it, but I know it will stick with me.
Julia Jarmond is an American journalist who has been living in France for half her life. She’s married to an asshole named Bertrand, and has an unhappy marriage, but who cares because the real story is Sarah. Sarah was ten years old in 1942, and her family was part of the Vel’ d’Hiv’ Roundup, in which 13,000 Jews were arrested by the French police (under Nazi orders), forced into a stadium for weeks, then separated and sent to camps to be killed. The raid collected mostly women and children. The really horrible part (as if this isn’t horrible enough), is that Sarah, thinking her family would be right back home, locks her four year old brother into a cabinet at home in order to protect him.
In 2002, for the sixtieth anniversary of the event, Julia begins researching the Vel’ d’Hiv’ Roundup. She discovers Sarah’s story, and her own family’s connection to it. She pisses a lot of people off in the meantime, because who really wants to be reminded of such a thing? But she becomes determined to follow it through to the end.
Like I said, it’s sad. But it’s a good story. Like Julia in the book, and most people, I would suspect, I’d never heard of the Vel’ d’Hiv’ Roundup. And I was a history major who took an entire class devoted to the Holocaust. But like Julia, I think it’s important that we learn all we can about what happened, rather than sweep it under the rug. It wasn’t until 1995 that a French president even acknowledged the French government’s role in Vel’ d’Hiv’. Sarah’s Key does an excellent job of educating the reader about the event, and personalizing it through Sarah’s particular story.