You probably all know by now that Sarkozy is trying to require every child in France, in the last year of primary school, to research a French child who was murdered by the Nazis — thus entrusting, as he puts it, each French citizen with the memory of a particular victim. I have a problem with this, but it’s not the one we keep hearing from the vociferous anti-Sarko intellectual lobby. They claim that the children will be traumatized, but that’s hogwash. The 10 year old’s capacity for bathos is bottomless, and I have little doubt that the kids will love it; they’ll wallow in it. My problem, rather, is that the information they’ll be able to find on most of the victims will be sparse, and much of it will be uninteresting. Teachers will end up supplementing or making things up — imposing a template “child victim of the Holocaust” on the real figures with whose memory their students have supposedly been entrusted. There’s something faux about the whole enterprise. And I’m thinking (as a result of a discussion with Shhhh): why not just read Anne Frank?
In the same vein, I’m bothered not so much by the fact that the Holocaust is now being taught to German children through a graphic novel, as by the fact that the graphic novel in question is not Maus. As with Sarkozy’s experiment, they’ve rejected the story that bubbled up organically from experience, demanding to be told, in favour of a story that is contrived, designed to elicit a certain reaction. I’m also weirded out by the fact that the German graphic novel appears to have been drawn by the ghost of Herge.