Monday, February 18, 2008

Little French Jewish Children

The geek published a post in which he expresses his wonder at French President Sarkozy's friendship with the Jewish people and Israel. That such a natural sentiment should be marvelled at is just testimony to the morally illiterate times we live in.

The post links to Commentary's Contentions blog, in which the following is observed:

President Nicolas Sarkozy dropped an intellectual bombshell this week, surprising the nation and touching off waves of protest with his revision of the school curriculum: beginning next fall, he said, every fifth grader will have to learn the life story of one of the 11,000 French children killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust.

Why 'bombshell"? Why "waves of protest"? Perhaps part of the answer can be found in Norman Geras response to Tony Judt, here.

"... the question why people should be so sensitive about the destruction of European Jewry is not a good one, and the irritation behind it is not an impulse worthy of respect. These are responses based either on ignorance or on something worse than ignorance... 'the powerful incentive [there was] in many places to forget what had happened, to draw a veil over the worst horrors'.

But never mind these protestations that seek to dilute the uniqueness of the evil that was the Holocaust, that balk at having fifth-graders engage with what children younger than them had to suffer and whose chance of surviving that evil was less than that of a small candle flame in a stormy night. There is no good way to teach children about the Holocaust because there is nothing good about that benighted episode.

Over a decade ago, Serge Klarsfeld completed a nearly impossible task and published "The Memorial to Jewish Children Deported from France".

French Children of the Holocaust - A Memorial by Serge Klarsfeld, the man who brought
Klaus Barbie to justice in 1983, was featured prominently in the New York Times “Living
Section” and in the Book Review. In what the Times calls “an exhaustive feat of research,”
Klarsfeld tells the story of the 11,000 Jewish children who were arrested by the French
police on orders of the Vichy government and turned over to the Germans for deportation.
From France, the children were sent to Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps in convoys
that continued rolling until the day of the Paris uprising that ended with the city’s liberation.
Only a handful of the children survived.

With photographs of 2,500 of the children and testimony gathered from their surviving relatives and family friends, Klarsfeld brings life to their brief biographies. The Los Angeles Times Book Review similarly devoted a full- page feature article to the book. Additional reviews have appeared in Jewish Week and the European edition of Newsweek. (here)

I remember reading a long article about this book in one of the literary magazines, which described the process by which Klarsfeld tracked down each and every one of the young victims. How he had to work out what the accurate names were because three, or four, or five year old kids cannot always articulate their names coherently. All 11,400 of them.

I would think this is a good source book for such a programme as M. Sarkozy has in mind. But stay tuned for the problems that will arise when this initiative is introduced into the classroom. France does not have such a good record in protecting the interests of little Jewish boys in its schools.


At 8:33 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

French immigrant Muslims wont like this one bit.


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