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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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Bernadette Soubirous: Bernadette Soubirous was born in 1844, the first child of an extremely poor miller in the town of Lourdes in southern France. The family was living in the basement of a dilapidated building when on February 11,1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette in a cave above the banks of the Gave River near Lourdes. Bernadette, 14 years old, was known as a virtuous girl though a dull student who had not even made her first Holy Communion. In poor health, she had suffered from asthma from an early age. 
<p>There were 18 appearances in all, the final one occurring on the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, July 16. Although Bernadette's initial reports provoked skepticism, her daily visions of "the Lady" brought great crowds of the curious. The Lady, Bernadette explained, had instructed her to have a chapel built on the spot of the visions. There the people were to come to wash in and drink of the water of the spring that had welled up from the very spot where Bernadette had been instructed to dig. </p><p>According to Bernadette, the Lady of her visions was a girl of 16 or 17 who wore a white robe with a blue sash. Yellow roses covered her feet, a large rosary was on her right arm. In the vision on March 25 she told Bernadette, "I am the Immaculate Conception." It was only when the words were explained to her that Bernadette came to realize who the Lady was. </p><p>Few visions have ever undergone the scrutiny that these appearances of the Immaculate Virgin were subject to. Lourdes became one of the most popular Marian shrines in the world, attracting millions of visitors. Miracles were reported at the shrine and in the waters of the spring. After thorough investigation Church authorities confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions in 1862. </p><p>During her life Bernadette suffered much. She was hounded by the public as well as by civic officials until at last she was protected in a convent of nuns. Five years later she petitioned to enter the Sisters of Notre Dame. After a period of illness she was able to make the journey from Lourdes and enter the novitiate. But within four months of her arrival she was given the last rites of the Church and allowed to profess her vows. She recovered enough to become infirmarian and then sacristan, but chronic health problems persisted. She died on April 16, 1879, at the age of 35. </p><p>She was canonized in 1933.</p> American Catholic Blog In humility, a woman ultimately forgets 
herself; forgets both her shortcomings and accomplishments equally and 
strives to remain empty of self to make room for Jesus, just as Mary 
did.

 
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