Report at the core of the event
8 May 2015 Ceremonies - Arc de Triomphe – Paris
An educational action by the Ministry of Defence - SGA/DMPA/SDMAE/BAPI with the help of schoolchildren from Jeuxey (88) and students from Les Prunais (94)
and their teachers. Pictures of this commemoration
[special 70th]. Testimonies and viewpoints.
"I shook the hand of the President of the Republic" exclaimed Nicolas (age 8) with enthusiasm, "it is not every day that we see a president" adds Marie (11), "we are very happy and very proud to be here today" said Benjamin (9 years old).
This day will remain engraved in the memories of three children and their classmates in Jeuxey primary school in the Vosges. They left their village at 3:30 in the morning and arrived in Paris then headed straight for the Arc de Triomphe, supervised by Stéphanie Hanzo, primary teacher, and Mrs. Grandmougin, the headmistress of the school.
Sitting right up near the front, they watched the ceremony in the presence of the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and numerous other politicians. Despite their young age, they were very receptive and curious, they were impressed by the Orchestra, the songs, the Republican Guard, the coming and going of official cars...
At the end of the ceremony, François Hollande went to meet numerous guests and exchanged a few words and shook hands with the children and their teachers. His presence attracted great interest among these young citizens.
The students had sent a collective letter to the head of State asking for permission to take part in the ceremony. "They waited eagerly for the answer" said Stéphanie Hanzo. "My students are already well aware of the obligation to remember.
I have been doing educational work with them as part of the primary school programme entitled "Conflicts in the 20th century". They worked on the first world war, went on a trip to Verdun... For example, they know that the tomb of the unknown soldier under the Arc de triomphe, comes from the underground Citadel at Verdun. Students also organised an exhibition in the local Jeuxey Hall for the 11 November.
"I was their age during the war" and the Vosges region was badly affected by the fighting; both of my grandfathers were in the first world war, my father was in the second' remembered Mr Jean Thiriat, president of the Jeuxey Veterans Association. Associated with all the ceremonies the children take part in, he is very moved to have been able to share this 8 May with them. "It's so important to be able to pass on values and testimonies to the younger generations and we must praise the remarkable work done by teachers. Yesterday 7 May, because we came here we celebrated this commemoration in our village and the children sang the Marseillaise! "
Indeed, the Jeuxey schoolchildren are also in a choir which has a repertoire of old songs for schoolchildren based on the war, but also pacifist songs such as "Né en 17", by Jean-Jacques Goldman. They are taking part in a competition in June organised by the ministry of education. Watch this space...
The Les Prunais Defence and global security class in Villiers-sur-Marne, in the Val de Marne, is already well familiar with military ceremonies and parades because it is part of the "Equal opportunities" programme under an agreement signed between the Ministries of Defence and Education.
As part of the history, geography and civic education syllabus, this project class receives specific teaching throughout the year which aims to introduce 4th year pupils to defence and national security in terms of the overall military defence dimensions but also the defence of republican values, environmental protection, economic defence and civil security.
But this special 8 May at the Arc de Triomphe - the unique opportunity to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War - marked the minds of young pupils.
With Yara, Loïc, Hugo, Stefani, Milena there were in all 22 serious and focused 14-15 year olds present that morning accompanied by Corinne Talon their dynamic history and geography teacher.
For Stefani, the highlight of the ceremony was "the rekindling of the flame by the President of the Republic and head of the armed forces" and "when the choirs sang the Chant des Partisans with a different version from the one we knew" her comrades added.
Ms. Talon stressed that the presence of the pupils in the stands is part of the important work she carries out with them;
"Through these 8 May ceremonies and all the educational work concerning the resistance and deportation, I focus on commitment and the risks associated to that commitment. Young people are very sensitive to these notions" the teacher said "I saw that when they met a former resistance fighter, followed by a screening of Night and Fog last February. We also saw the play based on the life of Sam Braun, a young French man deported to Auschwitz. "
This Defence and global security class, which exists since 2011, enables young people to open up to the world of Defence, to meet interesting people and visit exceptional places. In their town of Villiers-sur-Marne, they take part in flag raising, singing, text reading and wreath laying on ceremony days.
"It's a big change from the traditional classroom. We get to do things that are not normal school activities" approved Loïc "You could say that we are a bit privileged."
Next June, the pupils will set a course for Brest to visit their partner unit, the Commandant Blaison *, a navy sloop vessel based in Brest with whom they exchange and meet once a year. The programme includes a visit to the Naval Base, the Corsen surveillance and emergency rescue centre, the Loperhet radar facility (military and civilian surveillance over the West of France), the Navy Museum and the Sadi Carnot shelter.
All this may give rise to possible vocations, as for young Yara who dreams of becoming a military doctor, but one thing it certainly does achieve is it forges the consciences of these young citizens.
* a partnership was signed in 2011 between this navy vessel and the Les Prunais school.
Ministry of Defence - SGA/DMPA/SDMAE/BAPI - Report by Marie-Christine Caubet. Iconographic source: participatory contribution by pupils, students and their teachers.