Last week I had the opportunity to see and hear Tatiana De Rosnay speak at the Jewish Public Library about her newest book, Rose. The room was full as the audience eagerly anticipated her talk. Many in attendance are fans of Tatiana’s previous book Sarah’s Key, and have also seen the movie, which tells the story of a family in France during the Holocaust. Tatiana de Rosnay, born in Paris, is not Jewish, but researched the story that she depicts. She shared that two survivors of the val d’hiv round up became her dear friends. One of them said to her, “How did you know that that’s exactly how I felt?”
The book focuses on the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup. In 1942, French police in Paris, rounded up 13,152 Jewish emigres and refugees and their French-born children and grandchildren, who were then shipped to Auschwitz where most of them perished). Sarah’s Key focuses on a young girl during and after the war. The book vividly illustrates the willingness of French soldiers and the French government to “help” the Nazis in their mission to eliminate the Jews. Only recently have the French come to grips with this shameful episode of the French government’s collaboration with the Nazi extermination of Jews during WW II. The book also tells the story of a farmer’s family and their efforts to help Jews by hiding them from the authorities.
Fiction is a powerful vehicle to sensitize individuals to what it might have been like to live in a certain place and time and challenges all of us with the question: How would you have reacted….