The Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup was a Nazi decreed raid and mass arrest in Paris by the French police on the 16th and 17th July 1942, this act was one of several aimed at reducing the Jewish population in German occupied France during World War 2. According to police records 13152 victims were arrested and most held at an indoor cycle track known as the Velodrome d’Hiver, which was in close proximity to the Eiffel Tower. From there they were shipped by railway to Auschwitz.
This horrifying and to a large extent forgotten piece of European history form’s the background of Gilles Piquet-Brenner film Sarah’s Key 2011. Adapted from Tatiana de Rosnay best selling novel, it narrates the story of 10-year-old Sarah Starzynski and her family, who were part of the 1942 roundup and how Sarah secretly hides her younger brother in a cupboard in their flat fully expecting to return within a short time to release him. This part of the story is juxtaposed with the present day and how a journalist, who is assigned the task of telling the story of the Jewish deportations from Paris, investigates Sarah’s story and gets more and more emotionally involved when she realises her husbands family hides a secret.
This is a fascinating complex story, very well told with each time period nicely dovetailing. It grips and moves you at the same time and the superb cast adds emotional weight. The ever-dependable Kristin Scott Thomas plays the investigative journalist Julia Jarmond with the young Melusine Mayance playing the 10-year-old Sarah. Some 53 years after the raid the then French President Jacques Chirac apologized for the complicity of the French police and civil servants in the deportations.