January 27: a day of memory

Monday, January 27, our students of Première had the chance to participate in a day of commemoration of the Shoah, thanks to a meeting, by videoconference from the premises of the Sophie Germain high school in Paris, with five survivors: Raphaël Esrail, Victor Perahia , Elie Buzyn, Esther Senot and Ginette Kolinka.

This meeting, instructive and moving, allowed the students to prepare the memorial and educational trip they will make to Poland in April, to explore the concept of memory studied in class a few days earlier, and to learn more on this crime of all crimes of the Second World War, which in the 1940s, led the jurist Raphael Lemkin to develop a new concept to try to characterize it, that of genocide.

For two hours, the witnesses explained the conditions of survival of the deportees until the liberation on January 27, 1945 of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps by the Red Army, the deportation and genocidal process, starting with the marginalization of the Jews, and passing by their legal rights (the laws of Nuremberg of the Third Reich), in Germany as in other countries of Europe (the statute of the Jews of the Vichy government).

One of our students was able to ask a question to the survivors, and wondered how perhaps men considered ordinary in other respects could turn, under the effect of the war – of this total and unheard of war – into tormentors. As part of the students’ civic and human journey, this day ultimately enabled them to better understand an event of unparalleled historic scale.