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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Sarah’s Key

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

Kristen Scott Thomas plays Julia, an American journalist in Paris who is married to a Frenchman, Bertrand Tezac. In 2002, as the 60th anniversary of the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup of Jews in Paris by the French police, Julia wants to write the story as it has not been told before. Few people realize that thousands of Jews were sent to the death camps not by the Nazis, but by the French police. As Julia begins her research, she and her husband and daughter prepare to move into a Paris flat that has been in the Tezac family for decades. Julia also discovers that in middle age, she is pregnant.
 
In July, 1942, the police arrive at the apartment building that houses several Jewish families.  They tell the families to pack enough for three days and to come with them. Twelve- year-old Sarah Starzynski pushes her little brother into a closet and tells him not to move, that she will come back to get him. She locks him in and takes the key. She and her parents are taken to a popular winter sports arena that is closed over. For five days more than 13,000 people are locked in without water, food or toilets. Sarah and another girl, Rachel, escape with the help of a kindly guard  everyone else is transported to Nazi extermination camps in the east, especially Auschwitz.
 
Sarah is taken in by a kindly farmer and his family that takes her to Paris to find her brother.  New people have already moved into the apartment.
 
It is difficult to tell more of the story without giving key aspects away, so I will just say that this is a film about life, the extermination of life, abortion for convenience—that can easily be compared to the extermination of Jews and others by the Nazis for convenience. Whether or not the author of the book (French title is “Elle s'appelait Sarah”), Tatiana de Rosnay, intended this parallel, I don’t know, but it seemed clear to me. Survivor’s guilt is also an important topic that taken together with all of the life themes in the film, offer much to talk about.
 
More than anything I think the story wants to say: how easily we forget the crimes against humanity of the past. We need to remember or we are doomed to repeat them. There are consequences to ignoring or forgetting history, just as there are consequences to not seeing genocide and man-made famine in our world today. History in the making. How do we want to be remembered?
 
“Sarah’s Key” is a very moving film that reaches in and takes you by way of the heart.


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Jeanne Jugan: 
		<p>Born in northern France during the French Revolution—a time when congregations of women and men religious were being suppressed by the national government, Jeanne would eventually be highly praised in the French academy for her community's compassionate care of elderly poor people.</p>
		<p>When Jeanne was three and a half years old, her father, a fisherman, was lost at sea. Her widowed mother was hard pressed to raise her eight children (four died young) alone. At the age of 15 or 16, Jeanne became a kitchen maid for a family that not only cared for its own members, but also served poor, elderly people nearby. Ten years later, Jeanne became a nurse at the hospital in Le Rosais. Soon thereafter she joined a third order group founded by St. John Eudes (August 19).</p>
		<p>After six years she became a servant and friend of a woman she met through the third order. They prayed, visited the poor and taught catechism to children. After her friend's death, Jeanne and two other women continued a similar life in the city of Saint-Sevran. In 1839, they brought in their first permanent guest. They began an association, received more members and more guests. Mother Marie of the Cross, as Jeanne was now known, founded six more houses for the elderly by the end of 1849, all staffed by members of her association—the Little Sisters of the Poor. By 1853 the association numbered 500 and had houses as far away as England.</p>
		<p>Abbé Le Pailleur, a chaplain, had prevented Jeanne's reelection as superior in 1843; nine year later, he had her assigned to duties within the congregation, but would not allow her to be recognized as its founder. He was removed from office by the Holy See in 1890. </p>
		<p>By the time Pope Leo XIII gave her final approval to the community's constitutions in 1879, there were 2,400 Little Sisters of the Poor. Jeanne died later that same year, on August 30. Her cause was introduced in Rome in 1970, and she was beatified in 1982 and canonized in 2009. </p>
		<p> </p>
American Catholic Blog The people who know God well—the hermits, the prayerful people, those who risk everything to find God—always meet a lover, not a dictator. God is never found to be an abusive father or a manipulative mother, but a lover who is more than we dared hope for.

 
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