Where do I begin… In March of 2013, I checked into a hostel at the border town of Foz do Iguacu, Brazil. There in the 4-bed dorm room, I found a book on the shelf of the closet. I picked it up, the title of the book “Sarah’s Key” written by Tatiana de Rosnay. I thought to myself, “Why not give this a read – It’s been ages since you last read a book that’s not a travel guidebook.”
I admit I’m typically a slow reader unless the book intrigues me. This was one of those – I finished the book in 2 days despite the fact that I still found time to visit the Iguazzu falls on the Brazilian side and a local Buddhist Temple. The book tells a story of a Jewish girl who lived in Paris, France. On the 16th of July in 1942, the French police rounded up all the Jews in Paris and sent them to Vélodrome d’Hiver (Vel’ d’Hiv). She had locked her brother inside the secret cupboard in their Parisian apartment to keep him safe, with a promise to return. She became a child of the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup.
No other Holocaust story has struck me like this. I cried painfully as though I was the girl in the story when I finished the book. Even when I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2009, I did not react like this. My heart ached. I felt physical pain. I could not understand why the connection.
Let’s be clear. I believe in reincarnation. I have made connections to my past life self in this life time. Actually at least one of them is my spirit guide. If you do not believe these esoteric notions, read this as a fantasy story or not.
When I got back to Toronto in 2013, I met up with my friend, “the Seer”. I had to ask her “Did I experience the Holocaust as a Jewish child in Paris? Was I part of the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup? Did I get separated from my little brother? Does this book tell a similar story that my past life self experienced personally?”
The answers to all my questions – YES.
I was left a bit speechless because I had come to the understanding that I did live in that era in Paris as a person of royalty. I discovered this past life when I was visiting Palacio Paz in Buenos Aires. When I stepped into the rooms inside Palacio Paz, I experienced déjà vu. I recognized the inlay design of the ballroom. I sensed the familiarity as though I have lived there before.
I did not understand the possibility that a person’s soul could live 2 or more separate lives during one time period.
I was then reminded that time doesn’t really exist in a linear manner. Also, it was explained to me that a soul can be split up and live separate lives when it chooses to reincarnate.
Fast forward to June 2014, I peruse through the Santorini hostel’s book exchange library. What do I find? Another printed copy of Sarah’s Key. This time it’s a newer cover as it mentions the fact that it is a major film now.
Call me crazy. Call me paranoid. Call me whatever. But I think the Universe is trying to tell me something that I definitely should not ignore.
What exactly – I was unsure.
I reread the book. I made notes of the addresses in France which was mentioned in the book. I thought, perhaps I need to visit Paris one more time. More specifically, visit the Vel’ d’Hiv site and the rail stations which sent thousands of Jews to their death in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Now in August 2014, I have finally arrived in Paris, France after a meandering journey through Turkey, Greece, Germany and Switzerland.
On my first full day in Paris, I went to the Vel’ d’Hiv memorial in the 15e arrondissement which is in a riverside park facing the Eiffel tower.
It was a cloudy day. Grey skies. Rain started to drizzle shortly after I arrived.
I sat down next to the memorial and read a chapter in the book. Synchronistically, I flipped to the chapter which described the conditions inside the Velodrome on that day in 1942. These are the first 2 paragraphs of that chapter:
The day dragged on, endless, unbearable. Huddled against her mother, the girl watched the families around her slowly losing their sanity. There was nothing to drink, nothing to eat. The heat was stifling. The air was full of a dry, feathery dust that stung her eyes and her throat.
The great doors to the stadium were closed. Along each wall, sullen-faced policeman threatened them silently, hands on their guns. There was nowhere to go. Nothing to do. Except to sit here, and wait. Wait for what? What was going to happen to them, to her family, to this mass of people?
The artist who created this sculpture did an amazing job capturing what could have been the emotions experienced inside the Vel’ d’Hiv.
Seeing this sculpture moved me – made the reconnection for me. I knew I was at the right place. I needed to be here. To revisit. Give awareness. To make amends. To gain closure with the baby brother I did not see after that day in 1942.
I sat there in the park for a while letting my emotions subside. Cyclists and a few tourists passed by. Photos taken.
The rain fell on me. The rain fell on the memorial. Opposite to the stifling heat they experienced during the roundup.
Then I crossed the street and found rue Nélaton and Boulevard de Grenelle. On Boulevard de Grenelle, I found this plaque.
I took the book out of my bag and it automatically opened to the page with the translation of the plaque.
On 16 and 17 July, 1942, 13152 Jews were arrested in Paris and the suburbs, deported and assassinated at Auschwitz. In the Vélodrome d’Hiver that once stood on this spot, 1129 men, 2916 women, and 4115 children were packed here in inhuman conditions by the government of the Vichy police, by order of the Nazi occupant. May those who tried to save them be thanked. Passerby, never forget!
Just imagine if the Eiffel tower could talk… what would he say about witnessing such atrocities.