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Tuesday, 12 February, 2002, 11:44 GMT
France probes 'far-right' university
Jewish children in concentration camp
Several Lyon academics have denied aspects of the holocaust
A commission set up by the French Government has begun investigating links between the University of Lyon and the far right.

The commission, consisting of historians and other academics, will examine how a whole series of professors at the university have denied aspects of the holocaust, or published openly racist theses.

Jack Lang
Lang: Principles override academic freedom
The six academics selected by the socialist-led government will examine records dating back to the late 1970s in an attempt to determine whether or not Lyon actively recruited people with extremist views.

Launching the commission's work, France's Education Minister Jack Lang said that no-one wanted to restrict academic freedom, or the autonomy of individual universities, but that the constitution forbids xenophobia and holocaust denial, and that this was a greater principle.

BBC Paris correspondent James Coomarasamy says the commission has already proved highly controversial, even before it has begun its work.

Two academics refused to head it, while at Lyon itself there is a feeling that the university has been unfairly represented, and that the scandals there have been blown out of all proportion.

The commission is being headed by French historian Henry Rousso, director of the National Center for Scientific Research.

In a statement, the Education Ministry said the purpose of the commission was to "propose an interpretation based on reliable sources to avoid the double pitfalls of, intentionally or not, concealing the past and unjustifiably polarizing the issue".

See also:

06 Oct 98 | Europe
France: a haven of intolerance?
11 Apr 00 | Europe
Holocaust revisionist sentenced
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