Thursday, January 31, 2019, 7:30 pm
Sandler Center for the Performing Arts
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is marked each year on January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. While concentration camps are the first thought of many when thinking of the killing machine of the Holocaust, they did not emerge until later in the war.
The Holocaust by Bullets, the graphic term coined to describe the efforts of the Einsatzgruppen, the mobile killing units of the Nazis who swept eastward with deadly force, has been the lifelong concern of French priest, Father Patrick Desbois. As a boy, Father Desbois knew his grandfather had been a POW in a Nazi camp in Ukraine, but his silence about his wartime experience was deafening. When he grew older, Desbois inherited that silence, and vowed that he would bring voice to it and try to prevent the world from continuing to commit atrocities.
After becoming a priest, Desbois began work fighting anti-Semitism and bringing the Catholic and Jewish communities together. In 2004, Desbois founded Yahad in Unum (Together in One) and began his quest to find the mass graves of all the unknown martyred Jews of Eastern Europe. He says he learns the facts of the atrocities from witnesses, most of whom were children when they saw these terrible crimes perpetrated on their neighbors. Desbois says it is his calling, that the Jews who were killed by the murderous work of soldiers going from village to village, literally with the goal of exterminating a people, have been waiting for someone to find them.
Father Desbois has interviewed more than 5,000 witnesses and uncovered over 2,700 gravesites where more than one million Jews were buried. With the blessing of the Pope, he has no plans to stop. Desbois has also incorporated the victims of other modern-day genocides in his work, and draws the striking parallels between them and the Holocaust.
Father Desbois is a professor at Georgetown University, where he is on the faculty for the Center for Jewish Civilization. He is the author of several books, including The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews, winner of the National Jewish Book Award.
Father Desbois will share his experiences and vision during this time of remembrance, at a talk presented by the Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, the Norfolk Forum, and the Virginia Beach Forum. Tickets may be purchased at www.thenorfolkforum.org.