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Sarah’s Key

This moving tale is set in Paris during WWII and the present day. A journalist gets an assignment to write about the 60th anniversary of the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup. She is American-born and knew nothing about what happened in July 1942 in Paris. French police (on orders of the Gestapo) arrest thousands of foreign-born Jews living in Paris. The families (the majority of prisoners were children born in France) were held in appalling conditions in the velodrome prior to deportation to death camps. While interviewing older Parisians for the story, the journalist finds they are reluctant to discuss what happened and younger people were never taught about the event in school.

The story has two narrators….the journalist and a young girl who was arrested during the roundup. The girl, Sarah, thinks she will be coming home in a couple of hours and locks her younger brother in a hidden cupboard to sleep. The chapters narrated by Sarah are heartbreaking. The journalist discovers her own family’s secrets from the time of the arrests and questions the hypocrisy of their silence. The stories of many people who stood by uncomplaining during the arrests, either to survive the occupation, or because they despised Jews, seemed very genuine. Highly recommended.

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