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France may add 'Schindler's List' to civics curriculum

March 12, 2004|From Reuters

PARIS — French schools should show films such as "Schindler's List" or "The Pianist" to combat a dramatic rise in racism and anti-Semitism among students, said France's education minister, Luc Ferry.

Novels, documentary films and visits to former Nazi concentration camps also would help invigorate civics classes meant to teach tolerance and understanding, he said this week while presenting a new guide to materials against racial hatred.

Ferry said serious problems with racism and anti-Semitism were limited to about 5% of schools in France, but the problem overall had grown rapidly in the last three years.

"For the first time since World War II, anti-Semitism is now more widespread than racism that is not directed against Jews," he told journalists. "We cannot act as if this didn't exist, we cannot not respond to it."

The guide is part of efforts in France and other European countries to deal with resurging anti-Semitism linked to recent Middle East tensions.

European Commission President Romano Prodi supports these efforts but has disputed charges that anti-Jewish violence in Europe is as bad as it was in the 1930s.

Ferry said popular films depicting the Nazi persecution and slaughter of Jews during World War II could add a powerful message to the usual civics lessons based on textbooks.

"When you see a film like 'Schindler's List,' 'The Pianist' or 'Shoah,' you understand the reality of racism and anti-Semitism more than if you're asked to read the 1948 [United Nations] Declaration of Human Rights," he said.

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