PARIS â 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.
âNothing is more moving, for a child, 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 1940s, had the bad fortune to be defined as a Jew,â Mr. Sarkozy said at the end of a dinner speech to Franceâs Jewish community on Wednesday night. He added that every French child should be âentrusted with the memory of a French child-victim of the Holocaust.â
Adding to the national fracas over the announcement, Mr. Sarkozy wrapped his plan in the cloak of religion, placing blame for the wars and violence of the last century on an âabsence of Godâ and calling the Nazi belief in a hierarchy of races âradically incompatible with Judeo-Christian monotheism.â
Education Minister Xavier Darcos explained later that the aim of the plan was to âcreate an identification between a child of today and one of the same age who was deported and gassed.â
The Holocaust is already taught in French schools, but some psychiatrists and educators predicted that requiring students to identify with a specific victim would traumatize them.
Secularists accused Mr. Sarkozy, who is already under fire for his frequent praise of God and religion, of subverting both the countryâs iron-clad separation of church and state and the national ideal of a single, nonreligious identity for all.
Political opponents dismissed the plan as his latest misguided idea, unveiled without reflection or consultation. Some historians argued that ...
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