There Are No Compromises to Freedom of Expression
By Philippe Kahn
February 22, 1996
In the 60s Jewish Children weren't welcome in French Schools. During the German occupation, the French sometimes had been more diligent promoters of the Holocaust than the Germans themselves. Few Jewish families survived.
In my school most of the parents of the Jewish children were hard working cabinet makers, tailors or carpenters. They worked to get their children an education.
For most of the Jewish families, France had been their homes for no more than a generation. At the turn of the Century, they migrated from Eastern Europe, usually arriving with no more than a shirt on their backs, their violins and clarinets. And the great hope from a new lease on life. It lasted a short while.
In my School, in the heart of Paris, out of several thousand kids there were a handful of us. We were different. We were kept apart. The neighborhoods were pretty rough. We got together and practiced boxing and martial arts. It was self defense.
Often we'd come home bruised, our clothes ripped.
One day they had posters in the neighborhood, inviting kids to join the "keepers of the Great Aryan Principles". About ten kids, part of that neo-Nazi group were holding a meeting and explaining at length how the Holocaust never happened and why it was "another fabrication of the Jews".
That was too much. Three of us decided to go and present a counter-argument. They didn't see it that way. They beat us up with Steel bars and kicked us with their Combat boots.
I came back home with a broken nose, limping and bruises all over my body.
When my Mother arrived, I was furious. I told her how it was unbelievable to see people expressing such lies and insults. How they should not be allowed to publicize their opinions. How we should appeal to the highest authorities to stop them from publicizing those lies. How......
She looked at me, listened. As she sat down at the table, I stared at the tattoos on her forearm: Unerasable memories of the years she had spent in the Death Camps and that she had miraculously survived.
She looked me straight in the eyes and said:
"For Centuries our people have been the victims of intolerance. The price of our freedom is the burden of having to accept the worst in public expression. For he who starts censorship will never know where and when to stop".