Sunday, September 5, 2010

French Teacher, Catherine Pederzoli Suspended For Teaching About Holocaust

France is a nation with a troubled past. When France was occupied by the Germans in 1940, some Frenchmen resisted gallantly. Most people did what they had to to get along, and others collaborated actively with the Germans. Even Francois Mitterand, a renowned French Socialist had a shadowy past as a German collaborator that he excused as a "youthful indiscretion".

Catherine Pederzoli, a French Jewish woman led class trips to death camps and taught about the Holocaust for 15 years, until a new administration in her school subjected her to scrutiny. They accused her of being too emotionally involved, biased and lacking in "secularism". They even criticised her for using the Hebrew term "Shoah" far more frequently than the clinically dispassionate term "genocide".

There is a reasonable explanation for the use of a Hebrew term for the Holocaust. Indyposted notes as follows.

"Investigators cited her use of the term “Shoah”, a Hebrew term used for the Holocaust rather than the more clinical term “genocide”. It should be noted that having a word that is specific to a particular genocide is not unheard of. The Ukrainian forced famine genocide of 1932-1933 is referred to by the term “Holodomar“. The Assyrians refer to the genocide against them by the Turks as the “Sayfo”. Each genocide has its unique aspects, and it is to be expected that the targeted nationality will have a unique and impassioned perspective."

In addition to awakening memories of a troubled past, there is the issue of the 12% of the French population that is Arab. Many French Arabs consider any mention of the Holocaust to be a part of the historical narrative that competes with that of Palestinian suffering that is presented in the Arab world.

The events of World War II divide French society at least as much as the American Civil War, which even today reverberates in America's national outlook and self image. How does one "correctly" teach about the Holocaust and place it in the context of European history? Even 65 years after the end of World War II, this remains a very touchy issue in France.

No comments: