Monday, February 18, 2008

Veil Rejoins Sarko

Say what you will, the man has a way of getting things moving. Simone Veil, who had said that hearing Sarkozy's words about teaching the Holocaust had made her "blood run cold," today said she would join a group to "reflect on the implementation" of the presidential directive. And who can blame her? However impetuous the president may have been, no one can deny that he laid an important issue on the table: How to transmit the memory of the Holocaust as the last remaining survivors disappear, as living memory of World War II fades, as the shock of discovery declines into the routine of the textbooks. His methods are contestable--and should be contested--but sometimes it's useful to be shameless.


Anonymous said...

It doesn't change anything: one child or one class, the idea of that measure is still to transmit an emotional content in the place of history.
But the value of history is in its analytical study, not in its emotional appeal, be it the one of the victims.
The distance of historical facts allows us to increase our objective judgment of it, to remove this distance by some artificial trick in order to create an emotion (that will always fall short anyway of the genuine emotion of the people who lived these facts, and will most likely be biased in a very arguable way) is counter-productive.
Today's children already learn about the Shoah in schools, they see the pictures of scrawny children and adults awaiting their death, they watch the piles of dead bodies, and when in age of understanding the geopolitical causes which led to this, they are taught them. They certainly feel an emotion in front of these facts, but it's their own emotion, they don't have to be instructed to feel one.
What Sarkozy wishes to do is in adequation with its conception of justice (something he will be well-inspired to put on the table with the same shamelessness as some other issue); for him, justice must be rendered from the point of view of the victims, it is a justice of revenge. The goal of this measure is to put every children in the place of the victims, but neither justice nor history should work this way.

Not to speak of the obvious confusion between the Shoah and current xenophobia which we both acknowledged earlier.

Anonymous said...

A bit late maybe to comment on the subject, but in today's Le Monde was an excellent article on Nicolas Sarkozy's proposal related to the adoption by fourth graders of the memory of killed Jewish children. Boris Cyrulnik wrote that, and it is tout à son honneur. Not that he says anything new, but he raises both sides of the problem: the psychological side (about which he is very qualified
to write), the issue of collective memory, etc... It echoes much of Henry Rousso's writings on the memory of World War II in France. The link: