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Friday, April 11, 2014

Holocaust Archaeology: Yahad-In Unum

"The purpose of my organization Yahad-In Unum (Hebrew "together"; Latin "One") is to look for the victims. We are not looking for the killers; we are looking for the victims."
"In many genocides, we only remember the names of the killers. The Jews have given sanctity to the names of the victims so that we remember them."
"We are now 23 full-time in my organization. I'm not alone now. All are younger than me."
"My goal is to give back to the families so they can pray and say Kaddish on the mass graves. The second goal is to give back the Jewish victims to the Jewish people. The third one is to fight the Holocaust deniers."
"We are investigating the crimes of Hitler against the Jews ... [and] we have interviewed 3,800 neighbours who were present at the killings. They could look through the window. They were not collaborators. They were teenagers who ... saw everything."
"They are now old and they want to speak before they die. For the majority of them, it is the first time they speak. We have recorded all of them and it is accessible through our website."
"I want to say to the young people, perhaps one day you will be a doctor, perhaps you will be a soldier or a journalist, and you will be in a country of genocide. You must take a photo and send it to CNN or somewhere, and that's the way you will protect humanity ... There is a Russian proverb in all these countries that says the work is over when the last victim is buried. If we don't do this, in future we will have no evidence of this crime."
 Honoring Father Patrick Desbois, President of Yahad-In UnumFather Patrick Desbois, head of Yahad-in Unum

Father Patrick Desbois is a French Catholic priest. He has elected himself to bear witness to a mass atrocity, to remember and to find evidence, and to record and to memorialize. It is beyond human capacity to really understand what happened, why it happened, how it happened, that during World War II Nazi Germany strayed from the focus of world domination for the Third Reich, to perfect the world they envisioned by removing from it all traces of the presence of European Jewry as a start to eliminating Jews world-wide.

What is beyond human understanding is the capacity for some humans to demonstrate their capacity for mass slaughter, and to consider it a benefit to the world. To select an ancient people that persevered through countless millennia, to retain its faith and its cohesion as an ethnic group, with its distinct culture, heritage and religion, against all adversities. And adversity was never in short supply throughout the history of the Jewish people. And nor, since the advent of the Holocaust and beyond is it now in short supply. Father Desbois has dedicated his efforts to the memory of those who perished.

The founding of Yahad-In Unum took place in 2004, a joint project between leaders of France's Catholic and Jewish communities as a measure to bring Jews and Catholics together for a common purpose in shared humanity. The major initiative of the organization is meant to investigate and identify sites of mass graves of Jews murdered by German Fascist mobile killing units, called the Einsatzgruppen. And to look for their remains in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Moldova and Romania.

The pathological viral mental derangement more commonly spoken of as anti-Semitism had long found fertile ground and a comfortable home in Europe. Hitler and his minions felt that Germans were too civilized, would be too squeamish about having death camps positioned on German soil, so most of those concentration, labour and death camps were located elsewhere throughout Europe, where pogroms were not uncommon, and where it was less likely that any protests would arise, should anyone find the institutionalized obliteration of a people morally offensive.

Through dedicated on-the-ground research, Yahad-In-Unum has discovered evidence of mass graves in "village after village", representing the work of the Einsatzgruppen, separating the local Jewish population from their non-Jewish counterparts and eliminating them, men, women and children, in well organized operations, and in calculated cold blood. Yahad-In-Unum has signed a contract with the American Jewish Committee to ensure that revealed sites would be respected, "the graves will be protected forever and not be desecrated".

Father Desbois wears many hats, besides his anti-racist historical-humanitarian one; he is director of the Episcopal Committee for Relations with Judaism, itself connected with the French Conference of Bishops. His grandfather was a French soldier, deported to the Nazi prison camp Rawa-Ruska during the Second World War. Father Desbois himself studied anti-Semitism at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, as well as undertaking the study of Jewish religion and culture with a leader of the Jewish community in France.

Father Desbois embarked on a trip to Ukraine in 2002 to see for himself where his grandfather had been imprisoned, and while there he planned to pay his respects at a memorial he was certain he would find there. When he arrived he discovered to his amazement that there was no evidence, no kind of commemoration to the one-and-a-quarter-million Jews whose lives had been destroyed in Ukraine and Belarus. And he resolved to rectify that blatant oversight in respect and honour for the victims of morbidly destructive racism.

After founding Yaham-In Unum, he set about collecting information revolving around the mass killings of Jews and Roma in east Europe between 1941 and 1944. With the help of translators, Father Desbois along with others conducts interviews with witnesses. And with the use of metal detectors, he and his team have succeeded in unearthing German cartridges and bullets from pits where the bodies of the slaughtered were discarded, along with jewellery belonging to the victims, and other artifacts.

He has written a book outlining the immensity of the project: The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest's Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews.

Tuesday March the 4th, Father Desbois has been awarded the Crif award "in recognition of his commitment to the truth"

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