France Bans the "Shoah"
France Bans the "Shoah"

France has banned the "Shoah".

” No more “Holocaust” or “Shoah”, but the more bureaucratic, anonymous “anéantissement”, a French word that merely means annihilation.

The new French rules for the scholastic year of 2011 require the textbooks to avoid the use of any Jewish connotation for the genocide of the Jews.

A governmental circular, published in the Official Gazette No. 7 September 2010, already emphasized the need to remove the word “Shoah” from the textbooks used. Now the words Shoah or Holocaust disappeared from the French curricula.

Claude Lanzmann, director of the documentary “Shoah”, denounced this French initiative as an anti-Semitic attempt to “relativize” the event.

Dominique Borne of the Education Ministry, responsible for the rules and also director of the European Institute of Religious Sciences, declared that he felt “uncomfortable” with a “foreign word” like Shoah.

In explaining the French decision, the historian Pierre Nora said: “I know Dominique Borne very well and he expresses a new common thought: the Jews have mythisized their own suffering, let’s balance the discussion”.

Last year the High Council for Integration revealed that in many French schools the teachers avoided talk about the Holocaust due to the high percentage of Muslim pupils:

“Antisemitism surfaces during courses about the Holocaust, such as inappropriate jokes and refusals to watch films about Nazi concentration camps”, it said.

Last winter a high school teacher in the French city of Nancy had been suspended for “teaching too much” about the Holocaust. In the official suspension notice, the Metz–Nancy Academy stated that the teacher, Catherine Pederzoli-Ventura, had “brainwashed” her students, and that her classes lacked “objectivity”. The report also noted that the teacher had used the word “Holocaust” seven times more than the supposedly more “neutral word”, massacre.

“The only crime I have committed is being Jewish”, declared Pederzoli-Venturahas, a 58-year-old practicing Jew.

What’s happening to the Holocaust memory in France?

To use the title of Alvin Rosenfeld’s new book, is this “The End of the Holocaust?”. In this special book, Rosenfeld explains that the Shoah is eroded, perverted and universalized into a set of abstractions about human brutality, degraded into “Americanized” kitsch, and turned into a weapon against the Jews themselves.

Today, Holocaust memorials dot the French landscape, dozens of Holocaust “artifacts” have been developed by French museum planners, French directors make Holocaust movies for popular entertainment and the usual cast of French characters treks from one Holocaust “event” to another.

Never before has knowledge of the Holocaust been disseminated all over the France as it is today. Holocaust-related volumes are weighing down French library shelves. The Holocaust museum business is also booming. They are building bigger, better, state-of-the-art Holocaust museums. Holocaust education is crucial, so that future generations learn that bigotry is to be reviled and genocide is abhorrent. The memory of the six million is to be preserved, respected, and revered.

But a tragic paradox is also present in the French banning of the word “Shoah”: the more removed we become from the period of the Holocaust, the more the perversion it seems to generate. French governments are more alert against anti-Semitism than they have ever been, but paradoxically, anti-Semitism has become something totally commonplace (definitive is the case of Ilan Halimi, a young Jew killed in 2006 after two weeks of torture in Paris).

Holocaust inversion targets mainly Israel and Israelis, though the perpetrators sometimes mention Jews as well. It claims that the Israelis have become the Nazis of today.

This rabid anti-Semitic concept appeared in the European mainstream decades ago. Back in the early 1980s, the French president Francois Mitterrand was accusing Israel of using Nazi methods.

The further the Holocaust recedes into time, the more detrimental our Western memorials and plastics have become. The problem lies in the pedagogy of the Holocaust, the dictatorship of a fetishizied, abstract and stereotyped memory.

We’ve made a mockery of memory and all our staid vigilance of the dead Jews is rendering all of us indifferent to the genocidal violence against the living Jews.

Just seventy years after the French had rounded  up the Jews to take them to the nearest railway station, a governmental decision simply deleted that opaque, unsyllable and untranslatable word: Shoah.

That’s what happens when postmodern madness meets with Vichy-style anti-Semitism: a school protocol will “reformulate” what happened in the gas chambers.