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Sarah's Key: English Lit Circles

by Andrew Vukovic, Victoria Baxter, Mckenna Williams, and Daelyn Carroll

Andrew Vukovic

on 21 October 2014

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Transcript of Sarah's Key: English Lit Circles

Sarah's Key
Why This Scene?
Altered Version
Unable to Work
by David Olere, A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, New York
Holocaust Similarities in Literature
Connections To People
I chose to draw Sarah's bedroom because it is very symbolic to the plot line in
Sarah's Key
. Getting back to her brother Michel who is locked in the cupboard in their room is the most important thing to Sarah and in the book she goes through huge feats to get back to Paris even though it is a very traumatic place for her. This room holds so much symbolism with its ties to Julia's family and its ties to the past making it a crucial part to the plot line. It is the living proof in the book that people still remember the Holocaust and it is a great connector to show how even beyond the pages, the Holocaust is remembered as one of the worst events in history.
Key Symbolism
The key in the story represents how the French locked away their memories of their involvement in the rounding up of the Jews at Vel d'hiv and didn't speak of it, just as Sarah did not talk about her role in her brothers death.

Sarah's feelings towards the key are not mentioned after her brother dies, but it stands to reason that it probably is a symbol to her of her failure to save her brother and the breaking of her promise to come back for him later that day. Everytime she looked at the key, she must have felt the same guilt all over again.
I sat staring blankly out my window. I had always thought this part of France was busier, it seemed oddly empty..
I still hadn't gotten used to this new apartment. It was much larger than our old one, but incredibly boring. And so, I sat with my elbow on the windowsill and allowed my mind to float off into a random train-of-thought.
A pounding on the door startled me back to reality.
Who is coming to visit us now? We only just moved here? Maybe it was a new neighbor welcoming us to the building?
I got up and quickly made my way over to the door. To my surprise, it was a young girl no older than 11.
"I've come to get my brother." she announced, frantically trying to catch her breath as she spoke. "Who are you? Where is Michel?"
Michel? Why would she be looking for her brother here?
Suddenly, she charged past me, pushing me aside and slamming me into the wall in the process.
Slowly, I recovered my balance. I could hear the girl sprinting up the steps to my room, it was directly above me now.
What was this girl's problem? Why was it so urgent that she reach her brother? Why would her brother be here? I had so many questions.
I yelled out for my Father, he'd know what to do.
We ran up the staircase together, both unsure of what might be going on. A few more strangers followed close behind. Why were they here?
I could hear the girl mumbling to herself in my room, but couldn't make it out.
For a moment, I stood in confusion as I peered at the girl fumbling to open the secret door, which, oddly enough, I hadn't discovered
The lock clicked and the girl's face lit up. The stench hit us the moment she pried open the cupboard.
That second, the most dreadful second I had ever experienced, I understood. Releasing a heart-wrenching screech, the mysterious girl plummeted to the floor and her body went completely limp.
My father wouldn't allow me to look, but I knew. I understood. The girl's brother had died in THAT cupboard. We had recognized a faint odor soon after we moved into the apartment, but never imagined the cause would be something as horrifying as this.
My eyes watered and my hands shook.
A man attempted to tear the young girl away from the open cupboard but she managed to rip through his hold. My head spun like a top. I felt ill. Her scream, it bounced off every side of my skull, smashing every other thought in doing so.
I sneakily peered my head toward the crawl-space, briefly, catching a short glimpse of the body. The tiny, dark, figure curled up in the back of the space. That was a picture that I would never be able to let go.

My mind did flips in my skull as Julia watched me. I hadn't spoken of this to anyone aside from my Father. Even then, it was to discuss not talking about it ever again.
Sudden, rapid images flashed throughout my mind. The most horrid thoughts... I wish I could say I'd almost forgotten, but, that would be a lie. The boy's limp, disfigured body as my father gently pulled it out of the crawlspace, the twisted expressions on everyone's faces, the girl's scream, her horror, the way she looked at us as she trudged out the door. She despised us. It was our fault the boy was dead. We let him die.
That experience is one I had carried with me all of my life. A burden (sf).
I noticed my grip had tightened around the steering wheel. I must have been sitting here for a while. Julia must be wondering what is going through my head right now.
"I can still hear her scream," I whispered without looking at her. "I cannot forget it. Ever."

What Inspired de Rosnay To Write
Sarah's Key
De Rosnay wrote "Sarah's Key" because she wanted to show the ties between the past and present, and show how the Holocaust still affects the world today.
A Brief Look Into de Rosnay's Past
The Writer/Luminary
Tatiana de Rosnay was born on September 28, 1961, in a Paris suburb. She grew up in Paris and moved to Boston in the 70s. She then returned to Europe in the early 80s when moving to England. She attended the University of East Anglia and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in English literature. She then returned to Paris in 1984 taking multiple journalism jobs for French magazines. She then went on to publish nine french novels, and in 2007, published
Sarah's Key
De Rosnay Partly Based The Main Character Of Julia Jarmond On Herself
They are both journalists
They have both lived in Paris and Boston
They both research the Vel d'hiv
Tatiana de Rosnay
Julia Jarmond, as portrayed in the 2010 film
So, What was her inspiration for Sarah's Key?
Side Note
Let's see what the author has to say about this:
"I have always been interested in places and houses. And how places and houses keep memories, how walls can talk. Many of my books explore that theme." (De Rosnay)
"I realized I didn’t know much about what happened that day. I was not taught about this event at school, during the 70’s. And it seemed to be shrouded by some kind of taboo. So I started reading and researching." (De Rosnay)
"As I progressed through my research, I was moved, appalled by what I discovered concerning the Vél d’Hiv roundup, especially about what happened to those 4000 Jewish children, and I knew I had to write about it. But I also knew it could not be a historical novel, it had to have a more contemporary feel to it. And that’s how I imagined Julia’s story taking place today, linked to Sarah’s, back in the 40’s." (de Rosnay)
When Did She Start Writing?
The book that inspired de Rosnay to begin writing was actually
The Diary of Anne Frank
. After reading this, at the young age of 11, de Rosnay was moved by it, and decided to write her own diary. With her interest of writing growing, de Rosnay wrote a 90 page novel for her mother's birthday. The idea of a novel per year turned into a tradition and de Rosnay decided to pursue the experience.
Have You Ever Wondered What Happened on The Ground You're Standing On?
Square de la Libération, Drancy, France, 2010
Drancy Internment Camp, Drancy, 1942
(Square of Freedom)
Sarah's Key
: Brother is hidden in cupboard with sister holding the key while collaborating French police search

Hiding Edith
: Girl is hidden in dresser

Gabi's Dresser
: Daughter hidden in dresser while mother holds the key as the Nazi's search

Schindler's List
: During the rounding up of prisoners in the concentration camp, children hid in various placing including a piano and the outhouse pits.

Change of Heart
In Sarah's Key
and Schindler's List there is a change of heart or a change conscience that affects the plot.

Sarah's Key
: The policeman helps Sarah and Rachel escape.

Schindlar's List
: Oskar Schindlar secretly saves the lives of hundreds of Jews.
Many characters in holocaust stories make sacrifices in order to help others.

Sarah's Key
: Jules and Genevieve risk their lives to try to save Rachel. The policeman also puts himself in danger by allowing Sarah to escape.

Schinler's List
: In placing the Jews in the safety of his factory, Oskar Schindler risks being labeled as a Jewish sympathizer. He also loses considerable wealth in buying many of their lives and in making sure that his ammution factories never produce functional weaponry.
In the story, Sarah doesn't want to talk about her brother and is sullen and turns away whenever they pass Beaune-la-Rolande. Today you often hear people say their father or grandfather rarely or never spoke about what they experienced during the war. It's as if the memories were better left unspoken. This makes it difficult for people to understand and appreciate the horror that comes with war. In Sarah's Key, Edouard and his family didn't know or care why the house they came to live in was unoccupied. The French would rather forget about the atrocities in which they played a shameful role. Many years after the war, Julia wants to apologize to Sarah for the ignorance of her generation in regard to her suffering that so many Jews endured.
When Did She Find Out About The Vel d'Hiv?
"I heard about it for the first time through President Chirac’s speech in 1995. He was the first French president to publicly acknowledge the role of the French police during the Vel d’Hiv round-up." (Hudson)
Jacques Chirac's Speech Of 1995
On July 16, 1995, the president of France, Jacques Chirac, became the first French leader to recognize publicly France's responsibility for deporting thousands of Jews to their deaths during World War II (Di Paz).
Sarah's Bedroom

I chose to re-write this section of the novel from Edouard's perspective because I wanted to capture and emphasize his emotions more than Tatiana de Rosnay could have from Sarah or Julia's perspective. A lot of Edouard's thoughts were left for your imagination to assume. I thought it was an interesting idea to see what might have been going through his head as he was explaining to Julia what exactly had happened that day in the
Rue de Saintonge
apartment and how he felt when Sarah discovered Michel, her brother, dead in the hidden cupboard.

It was simple to see that Edouard's childhood experiences had scarred him for life, definitely. That's how this scene ties into our thesis. The horrid memory had stuck with him throughout his entire life. It had hurt Edouard more than any of his family member's it seemed. At least his father had some sort of way to relieve his feeling of blame for Michel's death. He paid to keep Sarah well and "happy". Edouard was told he could not speak of it, could not tell his family, was unable to do anything to help or contact Sarah. He was left confused and without an explanation. He knew nothing of Sarah or her family. There was never any closure for Edouard because he was always left wondering. He was stuck with this lingering pain etched deep into his brain. And now that he has been able to speak about it with his family, it will affect them as well; thus, carrying on further into present day.
The Original (page 159-161)
What might have happened to Sarah's Parents. (
Boy in the Striped Pajamas
- gas chamber scene)

The Illustrator
De Rosnay, like many other French, had never heard of the horrible events of the Vel d'Hiv. One thing that intrigued her most is that the Rue Nélaton, where the Vel d'Hiv was, is located only a couple blocks from her home. She had walked past multiple times without knowing the horrors that had went on there.
Looted Art
Rue Nélaton: Location of the Vel d'hiv
Rue Nélaton, Paris France, 2010
In the time period of the Holocaust, when the Jews were being rounded up, there were many other things stolen from the world other than the lives of many innocent people. Precious paintings and artifacts that were beloved by the Jewish people were taken by the Nazi’s to “enrich” the Third Reich, commonly known as the Nazi state. The Third Reich existed from January 30th, 1933 to May 8th, 1945, their beginning was ironically enough the day that Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor. Thousands of precious paintings were taken from the homes of Jewish families and these paintings were kept hidden for many years and some haven't even been found today. There are many debates on whether or not the art that was recovered should be given back to the families that lost them as these paintings are currently in the possession of the government and even though many families would argue that they want their valuables back, the truth is that the cost to hire a lawyer, cost of research and recovery of their valuables, is far too great so even if families managed to recover their stolen goods, they would have to sell them to pay for the expenses that brought these things home. Because of the greed of the Nazi's many families involved in the Holocaust are still tied and are fixated on the past for more than one reason.
Buses Taking French Jews
to Drancy, From the Vel d'Hiv
I thought it would be interesting to see if any other books share Sarah's Key's theme and setting
A Secret Kept
Setting: Paris, France, present day

Similarities to
Sarah's Key
: Unknown family secrets, family falling apart, Tragedy, High class Parisian Family
The House I Loved
Setting: Paris, France, 1860

Similarities to
Sarah's Key
: French history, the other side of a relatively unknown story, Parisian culture, French citizens treated unfairly, blemishes in France's past
La Mémoire des Murs
Setting: France, present day

Similarities to
Sarah's Key
: Horrible history of apartment, how walls share memories, tracking down person,
How Did This Affect The Scene?
expressed this scene from a whole new perspective
further explored Edouard's mind and helped to express more of his thoughts
allowed the scene to connect with Edouard's telling of the story
What This Shows
De Rosnay likes to write about secrets in history and life. She tells the story of a person affected and brings out the truth. She also likes to base many of her books in Paris and the USA.
The Key
A key, or specifically, a skeleton key, represents the secret. This story explores many secrets and Tori will explain them in her part
I chose this piece of art to represent the moment in the concentration camp where Sarah and her family had to hand over all their belongings to the officers. This famous painting signifies that nobody can hide and that is the message that the Jews are given at the beginning of the book. This incident is just like how no one can hide from the past and this includes those who were involved in the Holocaust both negatively and positively. When Sarah's mother gave up her belongings it was more than just giving up possessions, Sarah described that her mother "had become like a child" (72), and she only saw her "the strong passionate, women she missed and admired" (72) emerge when they separated Sarah from her mother in the camp. Sarah's mother gave up more than her belongings that day; she gave up her dignity, freedom, and her daughter.
Post-War Effects
Sarah feels guilty about her letting her brother down. A few years ago, I was mad at someone because they were saying really rude things to me, and I knew they liked brownies. So, I made some and changed the sugar with salt and baking powder. I felt guilty after.
The cupboard represents Sarah's love for her brother. She was trying to hide something that was precious to her. I have a treasure box that holds things that are precious to me, and keeps them safe.

Cupboard Representations
"It's a family secret. Something sad happened. Your grandfather doesn't want to talk about it" (de Rosnay 172).
"But do you want to live there?" she asked.
"No," I said truthfully. "Ever since I've known what happened there, I don't want to." (de Rosnay 273)
What Other Research Occurred Besides On The Web and Paper?
"Writing Sarah’s Key took me to Drancy and Beaune La Rolande, places around Paris which have a dreaded past that cannot be forgotten despite time going by. My visits there were poignant and memorable. I read everything I could concerning the round-up and I met Vel d’Hiv survivors, other unforgettable moments." (Hudson)
Most of The French That Pass These Places Don't
To Sum Up Each Part
Thank You
De Rosnay wrote "Sarah's Key" because she wanted to show the ties between the past and present, and show how the Holocaust still affects the world today.
The Researcher:
For de Rosnay, the spark to writing was The Diary of Anne Frank, a holocaust themed book
De Rosnay first heard about the Vel d'Hiv roundup in 1995
After hearing this she researched it, appalled by the stories and pictures she discovered
She decided to write the book as she likes writing books with historical secrets as themes.
The Writer:
The Connector:
As an extra side note I thought it'd be interesting to learn about what happened to the Jew's belongings after they left their homes since many did not return...
Showed how drastically Edouard was affected by his experiences involving the holocaust
How Edouard's experiences further connected Julia to Sarah
Enhanced the emotion that Edouard felt toward Sarah's situation in 1942 by expressing the scene from a whole new point-of-view
Painted a clear picture of how Edouard suffered throughout the years and supplied the opportunity to understand his pain
Panting, Sarah reached the fourth floor. She was so out of breath, she had to lean against the wall and press her fist into her aching side.
She pounded on the door of her parents' apartment, quick, sharp blows with the palms of her hands. No answer. She pounded agian, harder, with her fists.
Then she heard steps behind the door. It opened.
A young boy of twelve or thirteen appeared.
"Yes?" he asked.
Who was he? What was he doing in her apartment?
"I've come to get my brother," she stuttered. "Who are you? Where is Michel?"
"Your brother?" said the boy, slowly. "There is no Michel here."
She pushed him aside brutally, hardly noticing the new painting on the entrance wall, and unknown bookshelf, a strange red and green carpet.
The astonished boy shouted, but she did not stop, she rushed down the long familiar corridor and turned left, into her bedroom. She did not notice the new wallpaper, the new bed, the books, the belongings that had nothing to do with her.
The boy called out for his father, and there was a startled scuffle of footsteps in the next room.
Sarah whipped the key out of her pocket, pressed on the device with her palm. The hidden lock swung into view.
She heard the peal of the doorbell, a murmur of alarmed voices drawing near. Jules voice, Genevieve's, and an unknown man's.
Fast now, she had to be fast. Over and over she mumbled, "Michel, Michel, Michel, it's me, Sirka." Her fingers were trembling so hard she dropped the key.
Behind her shoulder, the boy came running, out of breath.
"What are you doing?" he gasped. "What are you doing in my room?"
She ignored him, picked up the key, fumbled with the lock. She was too nervous, too impatient. It took her a moment to work it. Finally, the lock clicked, and she tugged the secret door open.
A rotten stench hit her like a fist. She drew away. The boy at her side recoiled, afraid. Sarah fell to her knees.
A tall man with salt-and-pepper hair burst into the room, followed by Jules and Genevieve.
Sarah could not speak, she could only quiver, her fingers covering her eyes, her nose, blocking out the smell.
Jules drew near, put a hand on her shoulder, glanced into the cupboard. She felt him wrap her in his arms, try to carry her away.
He murmured into her ear, "Come, Sarah, come with me."
She fought him with all her might, scratching, kicking, all teeth and nails, and managed to scramble back to the open cupboard door.
In the back of the cupboard, she glimpsed the small lump of a motionless, curled-up body, then she saw the beloved little face, blackened, unrecognizable.
She sank to her knees again, and she screamed at the top of her lungs, she screamed for her mother, for her father, screamed for Michel.

Edouard Tezac gripped the steering wheel with his hands till his knuckles turned white. I stared at them, mesmerized.
"I can still hear her scream," he whispered. "I cannot forget it. Ever."

The Events of the Vel d'hiv Roundup and The Holocaust can still affect
everybody everywhere...
Sarah and her family were taken away by the french police. To keep her brother safe, she locked him in a cupboard, took the key, and left without telling anyone
She was separated from her parents and left at the camp by herself
Determined to get back to her brother, she convinced a guard to secretly let her go. She escaped and the Dufaures, a family living in the country, hid her from the Germans
The Dufaures then helped her get back to her brother in Paris, but it was too late...
Sarah's Key
shows that even non-jewish French were still affected by the Vel d'Hiv. They were still affected by their past. Edouard, Julia's father-in-law, gets pulled into it through his apartment seeing the horrors first hand. Many survivors still live with the memories of family lost and the horrific concentration camps.
Showed ties between past and present through actual events that happened
Showed the relations between events that followed the Holocaust and how they were tied in
Found symbolism in objects that made the book great because "everything is put in a book for a reason"
This video of Sarah discovering Michel might make it sink in how much it scarred her, a child. Although the body is not shown, this scene is still disturbing.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Hiding Edith, Schindler's List, and The Secret of Gabi's Dresser
are all connected to
Sarah's Key

- Changes of heart
- Hiding
- Sacrificing
- Post-War Effects
Occur in these books and movies
Some Key Plot Points For Sarah's Story
Full transcript