Thursday, May 8, 2008

An Intriguing Proposal

If you follow the news, you might be aware that this week marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel. However, you might not be aware that last Friday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. In fact, I thought it was tomorrow. To mark this day, one week late, I thought I would comment on an intriguing proposal made by France's President to perpetuate the memory of the six million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently announced a change by his government concerning the history curriculum used to teach France's fifth graders. Each fifth grader will be assigned to learn about one Jewish child who died in the Holocaust. "Nothing is more moving for a child," Sarkozy remarked, "than the story of a child his own age, who has the same games, the same joys and the same hopes as he, but who, in the dawn of the 1940's, had the bad fortune to be defined as a Jew." (This and the following quote are from the New York Times, link below.) Sarkozy's purpose for such a policy is to make sure the historical memory of what happened during the Holocaust does not die out with the passage of previous generations. Sarkozy declared that every French child should be "entrusted with the memory of a French-child victim of the Holocaust." Sarkozy has stated elsewhere that the forsaking of God was a major factor in bringing about the Holocaust.

This policy has been met with criticism. Some fear that to learn about a child's life cut short by government extermination would traumatize France's fifth graders. Others feel that this policy would deflect France's schools from teaching about France's own role in collaborating with the Nazis in carrying out the Holocaust. Minority groups within France, such as Muslims and Armenians, protest that if French children are to be taught about Jewish victims of the Holocaust, then these same children should learn about children from specific minorities who have been persecuted by the French government or French society. Even France's Jewish community is divided on the issue. Still, there are those who oppose the policy because they are Sarkozy's political opponents. Some consider the policy part of a grand plan by Sarkozy to introduce religion into secular society.

I have no problem with the plan, in fact, I find it quite innovative. Not only would it keep memories of the Holocaust alive, in would plant seeds in childrens' minds that would cause them to reject bigoted and xenophobic propaganda. The idea that fifth graders would become traumatized does not resonate with me. Children are not as easily traumatized as adults think. Often we adults inflict harm upon them by attributing to them the fears that grip us as adults. I wonder if Sarkozy announced a policy that France's fifth graders were to be pen-pals with children from persecuted groups from around the world, would there be a similar outcry?Sarkozy's policy could also spark a general interest among the students to want to study the past. Learning about real children will increase interest in the historical period. How this plan would prevent France's children from learning about France's complicity in the Holocaust is beyond me. In fact, this new policy should encourage French children to ask questions concerning France's Jewish children during WW II.

Sarkozy is certainly not a morally superior being, as his three marriages attest. Yet, on this issue, and his understanding that cultures that had forsaken God helped made the Holocaust possible, his heart and mind are in the right place.

Here are links to articles on this issue plus two links to Daniel Pipes' website on the current situation in Israel:

Next year, to commemorate the Holocaust Remembrance Day, I will be sure to reread a book entitled "Our Hands Are Stained With Blood", a history of Christian anti-semitism. As the late Zola Levitt used to close all his television programs, "Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem!"

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