Human Rights, France

Eighteen students, faculty and staff from SMU and Dallas are traveling to France during spring break 2014 to study the role that country played in the Holocaust, when Nazi-occupied France deported 76,000 Jews to be murdered in or en route to extermination camps.

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Exploring France’s dark past

An update from Merle, a graduate student in Liberal Studies:

Have been experiencing a tour of sites in France associated with the WWII Holocaust. We have concentrated on French atrocities. Not only has the trip been an eye-opener and sometimes a tearjerker; it has also taught someone who felt she knew that era’s history so much more.

I heard “Vichy” in the past and thought mineral water or thick vegetable soup. In fact, it was the capital of what remained, in theory, of independent France after 1940 when the Germans marched into the northern part of the country.

Now we have learned how un-independent that Vichy government was when it came to protecting the nation’s Jewish population. We are seeing for ourselves the savagery which Adolf Hitler could encourage his followers to perpetrate on others. We have also seen how the French nation, again restored, is addressing its horrid memories.

The week’s weather has been great as we motor around the countryside. Our group of 18 plus our bus driver has begun to interact like a family. If sometimes strenuous, the adventure filling Spring Break week has been almost incredible.

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