Summary and Analysis Chapter 22

 

Summary

Isabelle sees the streets full of buses carrying women and children to a stadium. She follows to investigate and learns that the Nazis are sending foreign-born Jews—not just in Paris, but throughout all of France—to concentration camps.

Vianne goes to Rachel’s house to offer her food, which Rachel can no longer get because of her yellow star. Beck arrives and cryptically tells them that Rachel should go into hiding for a day. Rachel decides to flee with her children, and Beck tells Vianne where the least-guarded checkpoint is. Vianne accompanies Rachel and her children to the checkpoint, where they are nearly across when a guard fires on the crowd, killing Sarah. Because Rachel and Ari can no longer escape, Vianne hides them in the cellar under her barn and buries Sarah’s body.

Analysis

Who is responsible for the horrors of the Holocaust? When Isabelle asks a French policeman about the orders he is carrying out in sending the foreign-born Jews to camps, he denies personal responsibility: “I just do as I’m told.” It seems that there are many levels of complicity. There are people like Vianne, who provided names to the Germans. There are the women who Isabelle witnessed sorting those names. There are French policemen carrying out their orders, and Nazi soldiers doing the same. These people are all complicit, and yet none of them feels complete control over their own actions.

Beck, though he has been complicit all along, seems to have finally reached the limit of what he is willing to allow. By warning Rachel to hide, he shows his first true spark of defiance against Nazi authority. Although he tells Vianne that he no longer considers himself a good man because of the things he has allowed to happen during the war, he is still good enough to try to help Vianne’s friend.

 
 
 
 
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