The reason we have to keep telling the
story of the Holocaust is because there are some people alive today who have
never heard of it. Or, even if they
have, in their minds it is consigned to the dustbin of history, along
with….say, The Napoleonic Wars, with about the same emotional content.
Somehow we need to keep this personal, and vivid, and contemporary.
As if it’s really true that those who do not know history are
doomed to repeat it.
Yes, we all know that the Nazis
rounded up Jews and sent them to the “concentration” camps from which
they never returned---all over occupied
. But did you also know that on at least one occasion the roundup was done
by the French police? It was so
systemically brutal….First, roust them from their homes, then detain them
in a big stadium with no explanations….then separate the men from the
women…then the women from the children. Transport
them separately to the “work camps.” Deal visibly violently with any
complainers, and the rest will be subdued. And
thus isolated, disconnected, alienated, beaten down, and deprived, there’s
no fight left in them. And, of
course, their homes are re-possessed and taken over by others, and their
possessions ransacked. The horrible
secret of Occupied France is how complicit, even cooperative, they really
were. Of course they don’t want to
talk about it.
Sarah Starzynski (Melusine Mayance)
was a mere child in 1942, when she had to watch her family go through all
this. When the soldiers came, she’d
locked her little brother in the closet of their apartment, promising
she’d come back for him. She told
him it was a game of hide and seek, and he believed her.
It wasn’t her fault, of course. But
she blamed herself, anyway. Her
incredible load of anxiety caused her, at least, to be able to escape,
but…..to a kind of hellish existence of survivor guilt that can’t be
assuaged even by the kindness of strangers.
Kristin Scott Thomas plays Julia
Jarmond, an American journalist who’s “gone native” in
and married a Frenchman (art imitating life), but the apartment which her
husband’s family inherits from the grandparents turns out to have ghosts
of generations past.
The story in “Sarah’s Key” is
told alternately from the present day back to those horrible World War Two
years, when so many were displaced, so many were tragically brutalized…and
we’re not even talking about battlefields and invasions.
In fact, there’s nothing about the conduct of the combat at all.
Just the incredible effect it had on the hapless populace, who
suffered the full effects of the terrible consequences of all those battles
fought and lost.
Yes, there are those in this
generation who are unaware of any of this, and even those who didn’t think
they were personally affected, but then realize, to their amazement, that it
involved their families, as well. The
point is clear: as part of the human
family, this is family history for us all.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Co-Pastor,
United Presbyterian Church,