14th Holocaust Memorial Lecture
Father Patrick Desbois
Monday, October 10, 2011
Mabel Brown Room
Lloyd P. Young Student Center
Keene State College
Father Patrick Desbois, president of Yahad-In Unum, has devoted his life to confronting anti-Semitism and furthering Catholic-Jewish understanding. Since 2001, he has led a truly historic undertaking of identifying and locating undiscovered mass graves of Jews killed during the Holocaust in Eastern Europe.
In less than three years, from June 1941 until the spring of 1944, Nazi mobile killing units, or Einsatzgruppen, massacred well over 1.5 million Jews in Eastern Europe. The Jewish populations of whole villages were slaughtered in hours; entire regions were annihilated in an afternoon.
As distinct from the concentration camps, there were few survivors to tell the world what had happened. Father Desbois and his teams visit small villages across Ukraine, Russia, Poland and Belarus and interview the residents there who witnessed the killings. Many of those he interviews have never before spoken of the massacres.
His book, [The Holocaust by Bullets]4 documents this work and is the winner of the 2008 National Jewish Book Award.
Father Desbois is a grandson of a French deportee to the Rawa Ruska Camp in the Ukraine and is motivated by a compulsion to locate the killing sites before all the witnesses have died, to "bring proof of these assassinations to the world", and to assure that history does not die with the witnesses. To fulfill this mission, Father Desbois founded Yahad-In Unum in 2004.
Fluent in Hebrew and English, Father Desbois was awarded the Medal of Valor by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Humanitarian Award of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Honorary Doctorates from Hebrew University, Bar Ilan University in Israel, and Yeshiva University amongst other honors
Interview with Father Desbois from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s "Voices on Antisemitism – A Podcast Series.