Stand for the anthem, remember Holocaust, Sarkozy tells kids

18th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

President Nicolas Sarkozy has unleashed a storm of protest with his education plan for French schoolchildren.


Paris -- President Nicolas Sarkozy has unleashed a storm of protest with his education plan for French schoolchildren to "adopt" the 11,000 French Jewish children who perished in the Holocaust.

As usual, Sarkozy did not consult with his ministers or his party before he called for children in the last grade of primary school to study the fate of the victims. And, as usual, his plans touch on a national issue that has caused a dispute within the opposition.

However, Sarkozy's "remembrance shock" has triggered a flood of politically dangerous protests. Many citizens have been letting off steam in letters to the editor and Internet blogs.

"Who commemorates the children deported today?" and "Why are we only talking about the Jews?" are some of the questions that have been raised.

Sarkozy always has to be like France's attention-grabbing private television stations and "go one better," the Lyon-based newspaper Le Progres said.

During his election campaign Sarkozy won the votes of right- wingers with his promise to teach young people manners and respect for the nation.

He vowed to end the self-flagellation with which the French allegedly responded to their bloody colonial history, slavery and collaboration with the Third Reich (Nazi Germany).

In his first official act, Sarkozy issued an order in 2007 for the emotional farewell letter by the young communist Guy Moquet to be read out to high-school students in their final years.

The young man, who was executed by the Nazis for his nationalism and political convictions, was intended by the president to serve as a model for the France's youth.

However, Sarkozy's plan caused trouble because he had not realized that Moquet was not arrested as a member of the resistance but as a revolutionary internationalist -- by the French themselves.

Now Sarkozy has imposed on schoolchildren yet another task laden with historical significance.

The 10 and 11-year-olds are to become sponsors to Jewish children killed by the Nazis.

However, groups from the Jewish Students' Association UEJF to the Human Rights Association LICRA, have criticizing the plans.

The initiative sought to substitute a critical approach to history with "a purely emotional approach," the Association of Historians, Liberte pour l'Histoire, said.

The Lorraine-based L'Alsace paper has compared the emotional approach to "a slap in the face."

However, Sarkozy received the harshest criticism from his liberal poster girl, Holocaust survivor Simone Veil.

"My blood froze in a second," the former president of the European Parliament said.

"This is unbearable, dramatic and above all unfair. You can't ask that of the little 10-year olds."

It was also impossible to expect a Muslim child to identify with a Jewish child, she said.

However, Sarkozy is sticking to his plans and is backed by former Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld. Moral education was important and primary school children should learn politeness and manners, said the president who likes to ignore formalities himself.
The children should respect the flag and stand up for the national anthem, he said.

"Within this framework" the "adoption" of the Jewish Nazi victims had to be understood, he said.

"You don't traumatize the children by presenting them with the memory of a country," he added

DPA with Expatica

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