President Sarkozy’s proposal to have pupils “adopt” the 11,500 French Jewish children killed during the Holocaust has touched off a wave of protests. France 24 looks at what the French think of the proposal.
Not a good idea. Such was the almost unanimous reaction to the French president's new proposals on teaching the Holocaust to youngsters. So much so that the government backed down. Speaking to the CRIF,
Among the first to express their discontent was centre-right political heavyweight Simone Veil, an
“Trivializing the Holocaust”
Many fear that French communities will react badly to the experience. “Children are already very sensitive to social unrest. That’s why this measure is really problematic,” said philosophy professor Sophie Ernst during
“How would a very Catholic or Muslim family react when teachers ask their child to carry the memory of a Jewish child?” asked Simone Veil. “People will start competing against one another over remembrance work,” said the philosopher Régis Debray in the Catholic daily “La Croix”. “This measure could spark claims in the banlieues [poor French suburbs] to 'adopt' Palestinian victims of Israeli strikes. And what about the Roma, the Armenians, and the blacks… In other words, instead of unifying us, I’m afraid this move will divide communities and religions. All of this seems unfortunate.”
Psychological impact on children
Teachers' unions were quick to bash the proposal. They believe the Holocaust is sufficiently studied in the school curriculum. As a XXth century event, the Holocaust is studied as early as primary school, points out the right-wing union Snlc-Csen. “Every time a politician becomes interested in an event, he feels the need to change the way it is taught. Trust teachers to do their work correctly and nurture the duty to remember the past,” Bernard Kuntz, a Snlc-Csen member, told the AFP.
Unions also question the psychological impact of the measure on children. “Children might feel guilty for the fate of a child they are not responsible for,” said the French teacher’s union, Snuipp-FSU. Another union, the Sgen-CFDT, stressed the danger that “children will develop morbid tendencies.”
“WWII is still taboo in
To the French president’s relief, a couple of Jewish institutions have come out in support of his proposal. The Grand Rabbi of
“It’s important to help pupils understand that these children, who were sitting under these same trees, on these same benches, were rejected by humanity because they were perceived as being different,” says French Rabbi Haïm Korsia.
Toning down the president’s assertions
Faced with such a backlash, the French government toned down the president’s demands. The government spokesperson, Laurent Wauquiez, explained that the president “opens the way, launches a debate but then leaves it open for those concerned.”
Veil finally accepted to join a consultation group to examine the ways one could apply Nicolas Sarkozy’s proposal. Modifying President Sarkozy's initial proposal, Interior Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie said classrooms - not individual pupils – would adopt one of the 11,000 young Holocaust victims. And finally, National Assembly speaker Bernard Accoyer announced the creation of a commission “on memorial issues” by the end of March.
Date created : 2008-02-20