A French history teacher in Nancy, France, has been suspended for breaching the principle of secularism and neutrality after the French education ministry concluded that she was teaching “too much” about the Holocaust and spending too much time organizing trips for her students to Nazi death camps in Poland and the Czech Republic.
1941 photo showing the railroad tracks leading to the entrance of the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Catherine Pederzoli, 58, was investigated by officials at the education ministry, who released a report about the matter in July. The report accused the teacher of “lacking distance, neutrality and secularism” in teaching the Holocaust, and of manipulating her
charges through a process of “brain-washing,” according to the French news agency AFP.
In December, when the French Minister of Education Luc Chatel was visiting Pederzoli’s high school, several of her students staged a protest over the decision to cut in half the number of students traveling to Poland on an upcoming trip, meant to acquaint the students with Nazi camps in the region. Pederzoli was accused of inciting the protest.
The principle of secularism and neutrality in France is meant to protect the separation of church and state. The ministry’s report cites that in meeting with investigators, the teacher used the word “Holocaust” 14 times while using the more neutral term “massacre” only twice.
Pederzoli’s lawyer, Christine Tadic, said Tuesday that Pederzoli had been organizing trips to concentration camps for the past 15 years, but that a change in the school’s administration in 2007 had led to a witch hunt against her.
Tadic claimed that “had the teacher been Christian, no one would have accused her of brainwashing.” Furthermore, she asked whether Pederzoli is in fact being blamed for being Jewish.
Also on Tuesday, Tadic filed for an injunction over the teacher’s suspension. According to AFP, the court has 15 days to rule on the matter.