Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sarah's Key-- Part Deux, If Walls Could Talk

This is a continuation of the book I started reviewing yesterday, Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. I just learned that they are currently making this into a film, and are filming in France. The film will be released next year.

In Sarah's Key, Sarah and her family were woken up in the middle of the night by the French police and taken to the Velodrome D'Hiver until their deportation to the concentration camps. Back then, the victims weren't told where they were going. This roundup is also known as La Grande Rafle. In the story, Sarah had every intention of going back to rescue her younger brother who she locked in the secret cabinet.

Of course, if these families were lucky to survive the concentration camps and come back home, they discovered that their old residences were inhabited by new people. After these places were emptied in the roundups, the owners look quickly for replacements, and usually at a cheap price. During that time, everyone was suffering in the war, so if you found a really cheap place, you didn't ask questions as to who lived there before, or why it was offered so cheaply. You just took it.

Here are some pictures of a Parisian apartment which I found off this blog, Peacock Feathers.

Here is the actual blog posting where she is talking about the renovation of this apartment with her friends (totally unrelated to what I am talking about here):

Please keep in mind that I've never been to Paris, and I don't know the history of this particular apartment. But to me, it looks like it has some old charm of the past. Most pictures of Parisian apartments posted online are modern and full of rennovations, and therefore couldn't use them for this little book review.

The Velodrome D'Hiver aka Vel' d'Hiv on Rue Nelaton which was used to contain the rounded up Jewish Parisians, used to be an indoor stadium for sporting events up until 1942. It eventually was torn down in 1959 as it was damaged in a fire, and no longer exists. Today that site is occupied by a block of flats and a building belonging to the Ministry of the Interior.

Here is a picture of the victims crammed in the sporting event center. They were locked up in here for eight days before being deported to Drancy, a transit campt in France before ending up at a concentration camp, usually Auschwitz. During these 8 days, people were crammed together, the bathrooms were locked up to prevent escape, and there was a lack of food and water. If you research this, you will be most appalled at the treatment of the children. The conditions were deplorable while the French police just stood by and did nothing.

The apartment featured in the book was an apartment on la rue de Saintonge, and it is a character all on its own, and helps to bring the past and the present together in the book.

Also, the author mentioned that part of her inspiration for writing Sarah's Key was her interest in places and houses. How places and houses keep memories, and how walls can talk if you pay attention and listen. Don't you ever wonder what your house has been through ? I know I did when I stayed in my Austrian grandmother's apartment. Hers was built after World War II and her and my grandfather built a life together there and raised my mom and my aunt. My grandpa also passed away there. The house is still in our family, and I couldn't ever imagine someone else living there. Like the author, I have a fascination with places and houses.

Here is a current view of the street, rue de Saintonge , which I swiped off of Google Images. Basically, the author, Tatiana says (in an interview with her included in the back of the book) that nowadays this neighborhood and surrounding area is upper-middle-class neighborhood of high-rise apartment buildings and parks does not consist of anything of Jewish historical interest, except for a monument.

It was also nearby on Rue Nelaton that the Velodrome D'Hiver stood. So basically, the past and Jewish history of the area has been erased and life goes on. If you look for it, you will see the memorial. Otherwise, it's like these horrific events never took place.

All of this was very close to the Eiffel Tower. So many tourists go and see the Eiffel Tower and talk about fashion, not realizing that hundreds of thousands of people were yanked out of their homes and sent to concentration camps, and their homes ransacked. All pretty much in front of that Eiffel Tower. When you go to countries like Austria, Germany and Poland, you know what happened, and you can find the holocaust memorial sites in travel books. And yet it seems like France has gotten a get out of guilt-free card.

Here is a picture of the sign indicating the location of La Grande Rafle. You can see how close it happened to the Eiffel Tower

The plaque on Rue Nelaton:

To see more pictures go to the site below. Just copy and paste, my blog won't allow me to make the link clickable.

Also, be sure to check out this blog entry:

This guy lives here in San Francisco, but he travels a lot and I love his blog. He visited some of the sites described about and then some ( I used one of his pictures). I love his entire blog, so I hope you enjoy it as much I am.

I am sorry, I have to cut this short here.

I will give more of an opinion about the storyline next time.


Liam said...

Phew! I guess you really worked on this post.

I am glad you decided to be a partner in crime and make the background of your blog black. It really helps the viewing of the pictures.

dadshouse said...

I hope you review a book of mine someday. I'm working on it...

And you would love Paris! Go!!

Senorita said...


I would be honored to review your masterpiece. Just let me know when.......

Tom Bailey said...

This a great way to write a review.