Summary and Analysis
Later in the year, Vianne and Sophie are walking home from school when they meet Isabelle. Isabelle looks secretive, and Vianne wonders if she is sneaking out to meet a boy. When Sophie reaches for Isabelle’s basket, Isabelle slaps her hand away from the tracts hidden inside. They meet Beck, who tells Vianne that Antoine and most of the other men from Carriveau are in a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany. He gives her a stack of official postcards so she can write to Antoine.
Vianne, grief-stricken, calls together the women of Carriveau to inform them and offer them postcards. The women don’t trust Vianne as a result of her friendliness toward Beck, but they accept her offer. Beck, having earned Vianne’s gratitude, asks her to write a list of the teachers at her school who are Jews or Communists. Reluctantly, she complies. When he points out that she has left off Rachel’s name, she adds it to the list.
Although Vianne doesn’t realize it at the time, the list that Beck asks her to write will ultimately be a tool for the systematic slaughter of Jews and other “undesirable” groups in the Holocaust. In addition to Jews and Communists, the Nazis also targeted homosexuals, Romanis, minority religious groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and people with disabilities. During WWII, the Nazis began their mistreatment of such people by compiling lists, forcing them to identify themselves, and banning them from various jobs. Only later were they gathered into prison camps and killed.
The key idea explored in this chapter is complicity: Is a person responsible for participating in something evil if that evil thing would have happened without his or her help? Vianne wrestles with this question as she makes the list for Beck. Although she knows that Beck could get the same information from anyone in Carriveau, she still feels a sense of responsibility.