Sunday, August 15, 2010

Velodrome d'hiver

I'm sure most of you know I love to read, however it seems the only time I have to truly lose myself in a book is while traveling. So, on my latest airline adventure I grabbed one of my newest acquisitions, Sarah's Key. Its World War II storyline proved to be a natural attention grabber, and I eagerly settled into what I hoped would be a riveting tale. I was not disappointed. While technically a work of fiction, the book is based on the mass arrest of Parisian Jews known as the Vélodrome d’hiver. In short, over 13,000 Jews were arrested over a two day period (July 16-17, 1942) and sent to the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp. This was not the only time the Vichy regime conducted a mass round-up of Jews, however, "this event is particular for a number of reasons, foremost being its scale. Because they had not developed the reflex of hiding, women and children were this time involved. The action was part of the vast deportation plan of European Jews...The Vél’ d’hiv’ Round-up was a concrete case of execution of the Final Solution."

I don't want to give too much away, but let me just say that as often happens with historical works of fiction, Sarah's Key introduced me to an event I knew little about prompting further research on the part of this historian. And in a Sophie's Choicesque ending that is both heart wrenching and unforgettable, the horror of a past genocide and its present day impact bring the story -and the reader- full circle.

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