Testimony - A Teacher *
> What does the CNRD represent for you?
I've been signing up secondary school classes (mostly 6th year General and technological levels) for the CNRD competition on a regular basis for the last ten years in the different categories offered by the competition. I quickly saw the educational and civic benefits of this competition. Indeed, the first year we signed up I wanted to give a conventional class and saw the difficulties. I was not getting through to the students who saw this as just another thing to be learned, something intangible. So I changed direction by focusing on having witnesses come to talk to the class as well as a play about life in the Loiret transit camps. The students started asking more questions, wanting to get more involved. I did more training with the Lille Rectory and the Coupole d'Helfaut who offer training courses on the competition and invite Deportation and Resistance survivors.
The CNRD took on an increasingly important role in my training and secondary school teaching. Then, with the students I decided to approach the CNRD from the point of view of the local history of the town of Berck sur Mer where the city archives have a huge volume of untapped resources.
The students seized on these new resources and linked them to family stories they knew. The CNRD was being gradually fleshed out and started to take shape. The places we studied were places the students knew and frequented. The people who intervened embodied this moment in the history of France. The competition was almost turning into a sort of "treasure hunt" in which we had to find the missing pieces of the puzzle to create a documented record which the students had brought to life by instilling their own grasp of history.
This is why the CNRD for me is a path to a better understanding of what happened, what was experienced by the resistance fighters and deportees during the 2nd World War, and a great educational tool for passing on the memory of those times. Students work with witnesses, examine documents, conduct the investigation and realise how complex history and the individual choices made can be.
The CNRD enabled me to bond with beautiful people always ready and willing to testify, to help us understand this period. The CNRD is a great educational tool that you must work on over time and that revives the link between generations. I have in mind this quote given to me by Alain Landau, son of Dr. Leo Landau, an Auschwitz-Birkenau deportee and survivor and who was happy that we could work with the students on the documents concerning his father's history. He chose an excerpt from the preface by Maurice Blanchot to Jorge Semprun's book "Literature or Life": "Whoever wants to remember must confide in oblivion, in this risk that is absolute oblivion and in this beautiful coincidence that then becomes a memory." We work on the CNRD every year from September to March and this gives us time to reflect, time to remember and time to create by also going beyond the logic of academic assessment. It's extremely motivating.
> What purpose do you think it has today?
Today, it is true that there are fewer and fewer witnesses around and soon there will be none left. However, the CNRD is not just about meetings with witnesses. The CNRD is also an encounter with the ethical values conveyed by the Resistance and the Republic. It is a tool in the fight against intolerance, racism, anti-semitism and hatred of others. It helps us discuss, compare and understand the meaning of commitment and the consequences of extremist opinions. My students watched the film "The heirs" this year and asked questions about the roots of racism, intolerance and hatred of others. Teachers have a hard job when it comes to explaining history. They have to take apart hatred-inducing propaganda opinions, look in the past for explanations that can feed resentment in wounded memories. The CNRD offers a time for reflection on values and the meaning of the commitments made by those who decided to say no at a particular point for the sake of a value, to refuse the intolerable. It also leads to reflections on the precious and fragile nature of the values of Freedom, Equality and Fraternity. The CNRD enables these to be embodied. Yes ! Women and men fought to the death to keep them alive. Yes ! Men, women, and children died because these values had disappeared along with the French Republic in July 1940. The CNRD has an obvious civic dimension.
> What will the CNRD be like in 20 years time in your opinion?
Big question. I dream of a CNRD on a European and even international scale with twinning of schools working together on a theme. A CERD would also contribute to strengthening the European identity, creating a link. Let's look objectively at the past in order to build the future. The relationship between De Gaulle, "the man of destiny (Churchill)" and England are obvious. Let us not forget the German Pastor Martin Niemöller who was arrested in 1937 and sent to the Sachsenhausen camp because he protested against the exclusion and persecution of the Jews by the Nazis. He was then transferred in 1941 to Dachau concentration camp. We should remember the women and men from all backgrounds such as Félix Eboué, Governor in Chad, who offered a territorial sovereignty basis to Free France where the values and laws of the Republic were kept in force, the MOI (immigrant labour) groups who fought because they loved and had "a certain idea of France"... A multi-perspective and calm view should help us better understand ourselves, better know ourselves and this beyond a purely national level. I remember this quote from the great historian Marc Bloch: "One word says everything and dominates and illuminates our studies: "understand"... a word charged above all with friendship. Even in our actions, we judge too much (...) We never understand enough. "
I wish the CNRD grows to take on a European scale. This is not a question of forgetting what was done in France but rather of knowing the past se we can build a better European society tomorrow. A future CERD seems one possible solution...
* Jan Lavezzari secondary school Berck sur Mer (62)
Ministry of Defence - SGA/DMPA/SDMAE/BAPI - Report by Marie-Christine Caubet. Iconographic sources:
participatory contribution by students and their teachers. - © Presidency of the French Republic – Élysée.fr