Sarah has decided to attempt escape along with Rachel. She feels “as if all the evil, all the hatred in the world was concentrated right here, stocked up all around her,” and she can’t help but wonder if it will be the same even after she escapes—if people will still hate her because she is Jewish. She struggles to understand this hatred, thinking that she has never hated anyone—except maybe for a teacher, once.
This is one of the most poignant episodes of the novel, because Sarah realizes that escaping the camp does not mean she can escape being hated by people who don’t even know her. This moment also represents a change in Sarah’s attitude, with her determination to change her fate crystallizing, thanks to her growing friendship with Rachel.
Rachel and Sarah don extra, protective layers of clothing and make their way toward the barbed-wire fence, which they plan to crawl under. They are caught crawling under the fence by Sarah’s neighborhood policeman. Rachel begins to sob but Sarah realizes she is not afraid of the policeman. Instead, she feels “a strange pity for him.” Sarah asks the policeman if he remembers Michel, “the little blond boy with the curly hair.” When he nods, Sarah tells him that she must return to Paris to save Michel. She pleads with him to let her go, and he agrees, shoving Sarah under the fence—but keeping hold of Rachel. With “the voice of a young woman” Sarah asks the policeman to let Rachel go, too. He agrees, and also hands the girls a wad of money through the fence. Rachel and Sarah run away from the camp as fast as they can.
Sarah’s escape from Beaune-la-Rolande is a dramatic high point of the plot. Her ability to persuade the policeman to release not only her but also Rachel speaks to her tremendous resolve, her poise, and her love for Michel. This moment is especially important because it is the first and only time that Sarah is “braver” than Rachel; while Sarah calmly negotiates with the policeman, Rachel, the mastermind behind the girls’ escape plan, breaks down in sobs. This moment also underscores a crucial aspect of the novel: characters are not solely good or evil. The policeman’s sense of humanity in his release of Sarah and Rachel complicates him as a character, and makes it harder for the reader to see the French officers who coordinated and executed the roundup as purely evil.