Back in 1942, the policemen lead Rywka and Sarah away from their apartment building as the neighbors watch silently from their windows. One neighbor, a music teacher who used to play songs for the Starzynski family from across their shared courtyard, calls out to the police, “You can’t do this! They’re honest, good people!” but he ultimately falls silent, too. Rywka breaks down sobbing and shouts for her husband. Wladyslaw emerges from his hiding spot in the cellar and tells the policemen, “Take me with my family.” Sarah takes hold of her father’s hand and as she and her parents are led away through the growing daylight, she consoles herself with the thought, “This was the French police, not the Germans. No one was going to hurt them.”
This chapter introduces the theme of silence. Sarah is hurt and confused when she sees her neighbors silently observing her families arrest from behind closed, curtained windows. Even Sarah’s friend the music teacher, who tries to speak up on behalf of the Starzynskis, falls silent and can only wave helplessly as Sarah is led away. From this point on, Sarah’s resentment of other people’s complicity in (or indifference to) her suffering will continue to grow. This chapter also highlights the bond Sarah has with her father, as well as the way in which she relies on him for a sense of safety, a dependence she will be forced to renegotiate as the novel’s events unfold.