78th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz: Young people more than ever to raise awareness

78th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz: Young people more than ever to raise awareness

As part of the commemoration of the 78th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps, today, Friday 27 January, more than 60 middle and high school students will meet at the Shoah Memorial in Paris (4th). In particular, the program includes a rare moment of exchange with survivors.

One word more needed than ever. About sixty young middle school and high school students, associated with a dozen institutions linked to the history and memory of the Jews of France during World War II, are expected this Friday on the occasion of the Shoah Memorial in Paris (4th) the 78the Anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

On this occasion, a moment of exchange is planned between the students, allowing them to recreate their educational project around the main figures of the Shoah (deportee survivors, hidden children, resistance fighters). Most notably, these young people will have the rare privilege of speaking to two survivors of the camps: Ginette Kolinka (97 years old) and Evelyne Askolovitch (85 years old). A moment that will be broadcast live from 10.30 a.m. on the memorial site.

As several events related to this international day to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust take place throughout the weekend, these moments could represent one of the last opportunities for these middle and high school students to meet direct witnesses of this dark period of history.

This, although over time the words of the last witnesses gradually die out. Some survivors will therefore take the time to talk about their experiences as deported children. This is the case, for example, of Henri Borlant (95 years old), Francine Christophe (89 years old) or even Gabriel Benichou (96 years old).

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Alarming numbers

The numerous interventions by these survivors make it possible to remind young people of the various crimes of Nazi barbarism at a time when young people have shown a certain worrying “ignorance” on the subject in recent years.

For example, according to a Dutch study conducted worldwide and released on Wednesday January 25 by the Claims Conference, a world organization representing Jewish victims of Nazism, 23% of French people born between 1980 and 2010 think that the Holocaust is a “myth” or “exaggerated”. At the same time, 25% of them could not name at least one Nazi camp.

Three years ago, the numbers in the same study were even more alarming. Specifically, 25% of those born between 1980 and 2010 did not know whether they had ever heard of the Shoah or not.

Furthermore, while 59% of the French believed that fewer people were thinking about the Shoah in recent years, 20% of those born between the early 1980s and late 1990s felt it was “normal ” for a person to hold anti-Semitic views.

A worrying proportion when, according to the latest data, 436 anti-Semitic acts were recorded in France in 2022. If this figure represents a significant decrease of 26% compared to 2021 (589), the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (Crif ) dismissed it, however, is still to be qualified. “Obviously a drop is good news, but it needs to be put into perspective,” Crif President Yonathan Arfi commented to AFP, when this data only reflects officially recorded acts.

Finally, note that at the end of this commemorative weekend, the issue will return in a broader and more political form on Monday as Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne will unveil her plan to combat racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination. This is intended to “expand” and “enrich” that of its predecessor Édouard Philippe in 2018.

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The plan will be presented to the delegated Minister for Equality, Isabelle Rome, said Rue de Varenne in Point.