PARIS – The French official choked on the words he read to a room of Defense Ministry recruits and swallowed back tears as he tried to kick off an unusual program aimed at teaching about the Holocaust.
The reading, from a young girl whose parents were arrested under the Nazi occupation, went straight to the heart of Friday's seminar on French officialdom's role in the Nazi terror.
"There were only French gendarmes. There were no Germans," read Eric Lucas, director of the ministry's historical agency.
"It poses the question of collective responsibility; but also individual," Lucas said.
The session on genocide awareness — which also included a debate, film and tour of the Holocaust Memorial museum in Paris — is to become regular training for new Defense Ministry officials.
Participants on Friday filed past museum walls etched with the names of thousands of French Jews deported to concentration camps during World War II.