‘Kind, cultured, discreet’: Funeral held for murdered French teacher

Former pupils and colleagues have shared tributes to the murdered 57-year-old, who has been awarded a posthumous Légion d’Honneur

A view of a crowd of people gathered in support, with a banner reading: Homage to Dominique Bernard
Crowds of people gathered in Paris in support of Dominique Bernard, on the morning of his funeral at Arras cathedral in Hauts-de-France
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Dominique Bernard, the teacher who was stabbed to death in an Islamist attack in northern France on October 13, has been called a “hero” who was “respected because of his presence and kindness”.

The 57-year-old was a French teacher who specialised in literature at the Gambetta-Carnot school in Arras (Hauts-de-France, Pas-de-Calais).

His funeral took place today (Thursday, October 19) in the Arras cathedral.

Crowds of people gathered in the centre of Arras, and an image was projected onto the cathedral wall before the ceremony took place. The Bishop of Arras spoke at the funeral which was attended by President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte, and National Education Minister Gabriel Attal.

More than 1,000 people were in attendance, including family, friends, former colleagues, and former pupils. The ceremony was also projected onto the screen outside. A crowd of people marched in Paris too, holding banners in support of the teacher.

Attaque au couteau à Arras: les adieux à Dominique Bernard pic.twitter.com/QrXEoh27GE

— BFMTV (@BFMTV) October 19, 2023

President Macron said that with his teaching Mr Bernard had doubtlessly “saved many lives”. The president awarded Mr Bernard the posthumous Légion d'honneur (the highest order of merit of the French Republic).

Mr Bernard was murdered by a former pupil, Mohammed Mogouchkov, who stabbed him while shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’. The murderer was listed as fiché S in connection with suspected Islamic radicalisation.

Read more: What does the term ‘fiché S’ mean in France?
Read more: Teacher killed, two injured in terrorist knife attack at French school

Colleague tributes: ‘A beacon of light’

Colleagues and former pupils have described him as “cultural, passionate, kind, smiling, calm, caring, and discreet”, with a gentle sense of humour.

One of his colleagues at Gambetta, Georges Paris, also a literature teacher, had known Mr Bernard for 20 years. He told Le Figaro that the teacher was always “methodical, rigorous and highly cultured”, who “was always reading”.

“At his house, there were books and DVDs everywhere,” added Mr Paris. Neighbours have said that they sometimes saw Mr Bernard in his courtyard with a book in his hand, “and (he) would even read as he walked”.

“What terrible irony that such a dark, obscure act should have struck the man who Victor Hugo could have called 'a beacon of light',” wrote Aurélie, one of his colleagues, on Facebook.

Former pupils: ‘Presence and kindness’

One former pupil who is now a teacher said: “He is one of the teachers who made a difference to my education. He taught me to love reading and made me want to be a teacher. I still can’t believe it.”

Another former pupil said: “The death of Samuel Paty [a teacher who was murdered in another Islamist attack in 2020] affected us, but it felt far from us. Mr Bernard, at Gambetta…it’s unthinkable and unjust.”

Another said: “When I found out that the victim was Mr Bernard, I wasn't very surprised because he was a teacher who would have done anything to protect his pupils. He didn’t want to just teach us. He also wanted us to think critically about things and think for ourselves. He had something special.”

“He made people respect him by his presence and kindness,” said another. “I loved going to lessons with him and looked forward to French [class]. I loved every book he made us read.”

Mr Bernard had spent several years teaching in Lille, before returning to his childhood home of Arras 15 years ago. He loved French literature, as well as fine art painting, and cinema - especially the relationship between literature and film.

One pupil said: “When we studied a book, he would show us a film that had resulted from it. When certain students didn't like to read, he would try to find out why and be very accommodating. He would tell them to watch the film!”

Mr Bernard gave presentations and courses on cinema and literature at the Université populaire du Nord - Pas-de-Calais.

“He was a much-loved teacher,” said a former pupil. “We will remember his name, the quality of his lessons, and the man that he was.”

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