In July 1942, Sarah Starzynski awakens to the sound of knocking on her apartment door. Sarah worries that the police might have found her father, Wladyslaw, who has been spending nights hiding in the family’s cellar due to recent arrests of Jewish men. Sarah rushes to awaken her mother, Rywka, who opens the door, expecting the “green-gray suits” of the Germans, but finding instead two French officers. Sarah’s mother lies to the officers, telling them her husband is not present. The officers insist that Rywka and Sarah pack their things and come with them.
This chapter introduces the reader to Sarah, one of the novel’s two protagonists. Sarah’s frustration in this chapter with her mother’s silent acquiescence to the policemen’s demands shows how Sarah values bravery and associates it with action. Over the course of the novel, as she finds herself in increasingly horrific circumstances, Sarah’s idea of bravery will begin to shift, as she turns to quieter forms to resistance.