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More French students are learning the history of the Holocaust, survey shows

Issued on: 13/09/2020 – 17:26Modified: 13/09/2020 – 17:31

The majority of French young people aged 15-24 have learned the history of the Holocaust at school, according to a poll published on Sunday. But the Union of Jewish Students of France (UEJF) says it regrets that for one in ten students surveyed, these lessons are impossible to teach.

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Some 87 percent of the young people questioned said they had already heard about the Holocaust, 95 percent of them had heard about the gas chambers and for 80 percent of them, they had learned about this at school, according to a poll conducted by Ifop for the UEJF and French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, published on Sunday.

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Carried out from September 4 to 9, the survey was published to tie in with a ceremony in remembrance of the deportees and victims of the Shoah, commemorated on Sunday with a service at the Great Synagogue of Paris located in the rue de la Victoire, Paris.

“We can congratulate ourselves on the progress made in society thanks to schools educating young people about the Shoah. Some 68 percent of the young people surveyed said they knew about the Vel’d’Hiv Roundup, whereas in 2012 they were only a third,” the UEJF said in a statement.

Vel’ d’Hiv was the name given to a mass arrest of more than 13,000 Jews in Paris by French police on July 16 and 17, 1942. Many of them were temporarily held in the Vélodrome d’Hiver (Vél d’Hiv) stadium. They were then sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. In 1995, then French President Jacques Chirac apologised for France’s complicity in this atrocity.

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Commitment of schools

According to the UEJF, “these figures are proof that the schools’ commitment as well as of the many other parties involved, such as the survivors who testify or the associations at work, are bearing fruit”.

Despite the encouraging results, one in ten students surveyed said it was impossible to teach the Shoah in their class, with 21 percent noting the many criticisms and questions from other students during lessons about the subject.

“[We’re] alarmed at these particularly high figures,” the UEJF wrote. “They bear witness to latent anti-Semitism in some French classes. How can you be a Jewish pupil if anti-Semitism is so present that it is impossible to talk about the Shoah?”

The survey also revealed the influence of Holocaust denial statements on online video platforms and social networks. Nearly one in three (29 percent) of the young people questioned said they had already read or viewed content questioning the existence of the Holocaust. Of these, 57 percent have learned about these denial theories on Youtube and 40 percent on Facebook.

The UEJF wants social platforms to take more responsibility for their online content saying these figures “demonstrate once again that platforms must urgently make a real commitment not to undo everything taught in schools by allowing the simple and rapid spread of antisemitic content”.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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