Chapters 1-2 Summary

Paris, July 1942

Since her bedroom is closest to the door, the girl is the first to hear the loud knocking. She is groggy with sleep and thinks at first it is her father who has come up from his hiding place in the cellar and is impatiently knocking because he has forgotten his keys. However, when she hears the loud, “brutal” voices, she knows the knocking has nothing to do with him. It is the police, and they are demanding that someone open the door. Her little brother in the bed next to her stirs a bit when the knocking resumes, and she looks outside to see that it is still dark. She is afraid.

She was not supposed to know about the "trouble," but she had crept downstairs to the living room late at night and listened to her parents talking in hushed voices when they thought she was asleep. They were speaking their native language, which she understood but could not speak as fluently as they. Her father had said times would get difficult and they would all have to be brave and extremely careful. He whispered “strange, unknown” words, such as “camps” and “roundup” and “early morning arrests.” These words held no meaning for the girl. Her father said it was only the men who were in danger, so every night he would hide in the cellar.

In the morning, he had explained to his daughter that he would be sleeping downstairs until “things got safe.” She is unclear what “things” he is talking about or what, exactly, “safe” means. She wanted to ask about the other strange words, but then she would have had to admit she had been eavesdropping so she was left wondering.

The police outside the door are still hollering and knocking. The girl goes softly to her mother’s room and wakes her. As she tells her about the police banging on the door, the girl thinks her mother looks older than her thirty years. Her brother is sleeping through all of it. The girl asks if they have come for Papa, if they will take him away, but her mother does not answer her as she goes to the door and timidly asks what the men want. They shout her name and demand that she open the door immediately. Her mother’s face is drained of color and the girl has never seen her so afraid.


(The entire section is 922 words.)