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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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Catherine of Alexandria: According to the <i>Legend of St. Catherine</i>, this young woman converted to Christianity after receiving a vision. At the age of 18, she debated 50 pagan philosophers. Amazed at her wisdom and debating skills, they became Christians—as did about 200 soldiers and members of the emperor’s family. All of them were martyred. 
<p>Sentenced to be executed on a spiked wheel, Catherine touched the wheel and it shattered. She was beheaded. Centuries later, angels are said to have carried the body of St. Catherine to a monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai. </p><p>Devotion to her spread as a result of the Crusades. She was invoked as the patroness of students, teachers, librarians and lawyers. Catherine is one of the 14 Holy Helpers, venerated especially in Germany and Hungary.</p> American Catholic Blog To live charitably means not looking out for our own interests, but carrying the burdens of the weakest and poorest among us. –Pope Francis

 
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