Holocaust by Bullets


BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: Finally, this week of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the story of Father Patrick Desbois, a French Catholic priest whose grandfather’s World War II legacy led to what became for Father Desbois a sacred mission to seek out the aging witnesses of the Nazi massacre of Jews in Ukraine. They told him what they had seen as children, and what they had even been forced to assist with. Then they led him to the mass graves.

Father PATRICK DESBOIS (Yahad-In Unum): I began by Ukraine because, in the beginning, it was a private story. I wanted only to find back the memory of my grandfather, and also where was the corpses of the Jews, and to bury them with dignity. And suddenly I discovered it was an extermination — not camp, but a continent of extermination.

In East, they shot the Jews in public. Holocaust was in public. Secret was from West, but no secret in East. All the village was watching; all the neighbors were watching.

They were poor people, and the Nazis, they used the Soviet system of requisition to force them to work. They were forced to dig the grave, to carry the Jews in carts with horses from the village to the mass grave, to fulfill the mass grave at night, to bring back the furniture of Jewish houses and to sell them, etc.

And all these people, who have been children forced by the Nazis, they want to speak today before to die.

(From Video of Ukrainian Witnesses):

UNIDENTIFIED MALE WITNESS # 1: The people were put in a line, completely undressed. I saw this with my own eyes.

INTERVIEWER: Could you show us where the graves are?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE WITNESS # 2: They’re over there. Seeing those people who were still moving inside the grave, I felt sick.

Father Patrick Desbois

Fr. DESBOIS: You know, 60 years after they still remember the last words of the dead people. They kept this secret. One woman told me, “Father, I was dreaming all my life to find somebody to say that.”

(From Video of Ukrainian Witnesses):

UNIDENTIFIED MALE WITNESS # 3 (sitting with woman): They had rifles with bayonets. The bayonets were used to push the people in the grave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE WITNESS # 4: We cried when we said goodbye. They were my friends, my schoolmates, David and Gricha.

Fr. DESBOIS: They know I don’t come to judge. I come to know the truth, to establish the evidences because of the deniers, and also to find back the corpses so they will receive a prayer and the dignity. If I don’t do it, who will do it?

DAVID MARWELL, PhD (Director, Museum of Jewish Heritage): Many will say it took a Catholic priest to travel all the way to the Ukraine and to unlock these memories and to locate and identify these graves. There are literally millions of people who are unnamed and whose graves are unmarked for whom Patrick Desbois has carried out a kind of sacred mission to identify their final resting place.

  • Betty Jacobowitz

    I have a friend who, at the age of 6, went to Azbekistan with her family from the Ukraine. When they returned after the war all her classmates, family, and friends had been murdered. Ukraine as well as Poland seems to be an immense graveyard of Jews. The horror never ceases.

  • joseph frymer

    Although I commend Father Desbois for his mission to “unlock the memories” of the Ukranianns who witnessed the execution of hundreds of thousands of Jews,I am chagrined that no mention of the fact that the Ukranians were willing participants to this massacre .This fact is well known and documented in the Jewish community and I heard this firsthand from my late father and his brother, who is still alive in Florida.Both brothers survived the nazi holocaust in Europe by hiding in the Polish woods with the Partisans for almost two years As I grew up I heard these stories first hand from survivors who were friends of my father and uncle Jewishs
    .Maybe the Ukranians who”witnessed” these atrocities have nightmares about the active participation of their fathers and uncles.You will not find any Jews in the Ukraine because those who survived fled to Israel to escape from the traditionally and fundamentally anti-semitic Ukranians who have a history of hundreds of years of Pogroms against the Jews.

    Do your due dilligence and rebut the gist response if you will.Talk to Elie Weisel or Simon Weisenthal

    May G-d have mercy on the souls of those who were massacred

  • Vera Seleznow

    I must agree with comment #2 from Joseph Frymer. The same “scenario” took place in the woods of Belarus. This was before the concentration camps and therefore many of us who lost relatives have no way to trace them. Even before the Nazis arrived, I knew survivors of pogroms who remember seeing, just before they lost consciousnes, a shiny metal cross dangling before their eyes as their attacker bent bent over them. Over the years I have met many descendants of non-Jewish immigrants from these areas of Eastern Europe and cannot resist the tendency to wonder what they heard from their parents or grandparents.

  • Christine Budish

    I think the Ukrainian assistance in the murder of the jewish people was addressed very well in “Lost- the search for six in six million.” The Ukrainians had there own times of horror and trials. Its not an excuse but a fact of history. I personally don’t understand the witnessing and participating in such horrible events. Yet what comes to mind are the people of now, who turn there backs on the cries of abused children. Turn there backs on the starving right in their neighborhoods. Turn our backs when people are chosen to be persecuted.

    But once I saw the historical background, it clicked into place. People need someone to blame, the innocent bystander to take our pain out on. It happens everyday in life. I am greatfull that there are people like Father Patrick Desbois. Remebering those lost, bringing them back to us. Bringing them to the minds of a new generation. We must keep this going. We must never forget. Then to ask the undeniable question; What would I have done differently? Within the context of that question begin living the answer in our daily lives. God Bless.

  • Chris Watson

    Of course the Ukrainians themselves had been the victims of a holocaust equal to that inflicted upon the Jews only a few years earlier. That must also be understood.

    Seeing the comments of Jewish people above, understandably but unjustly lashing out at all Ukrainians – generations after a horror that didn’t even occur affect them personally – can you maybe sympathise with the relatively small proportion of Ukrainians (and surely it was a relatively small proportion) who wrongly blamed the Jews for the ‘Holodomor’, the genocide of Ukrainians under Communism.

    The wrongful identification of entire races with the narrow set of one’s political enemies is common even today (think of how many Jews confuse all Arabs with the narrow set of their terrorist enemies). In the benighted 1930s racial identification was at its height – it doesn’t serve to blame the Ukrainians that they believed all Jews were Communists, and that they believed they were striking out at their enemies, it’s just another horrible aspect of the tragedy.

  • Ashur

    well….Assyrians and Arminans were suffered and killed in millions, i don’t see them getting this much of attention!.

  • Kristin

    There IS documentation of Ukranien massacres of Jews in the 1880′s, 1920s, even then in the 1930′s40s under the Nazis. All of Poland, Germany, the slavic regions, West Russia and what later became the west Soviet areas, were all willing to blame the Jews for everything that went wrong : communism, WWI, etc. We know pogroms went on all across Europe even during the Crusades, after the Crusades. In the Ukraine people were poor but everyone hated the Jews . Maybe you had a Jew you knew and liked personally , but you hated them as a group. And when the chance came to get rid of them and get their” stuff” under the Nazis,most of Europe took it. We hear of account after account of people who survived the camps going back home being killed by the Gentiles who had moved in and taken over because they showed up wanting back the family house or the family business. These people here were young when the executions took place but I question how much they mourn the death of the Jews in their villages when Father Desbois is not in front of them with a camera. To excuse their behavior and their participation in the executions the Ukranians had to tell these little kids how bad the Jews were why the Jews had to be killed. Interesting a Catholic priest is doing this when you consider who deeply responsible the Catholic church is for antisemitism and its result- the Holocaust. At least one priest making attempting to undo what his church did is a start. And for the Catholic Church and the Ukraine , all of eastern Europe : Genesis/ Bereshit 12:3 still operates.

  • cosy

    i just want to know if this Father PATRICK DESBOIS have discover in Ukraine any other massacre with romanians as victims of red army when they occupied Basarabia (land beetwen river Prut and Nistru ). I know is not jews they
    killed but they did it same as germans .

  • Debbie

    THANK YOU for Father Desbois, who through his mission is providing further insight and shedding light to what happened during very dark times.
    As society has witnessed, this darkness still continues to raise it’s beastly head from time to time around the world. It is not for us to generalize and hate any national group for the atrocities that were carried out under it’s National flag. We can follow the example of Father Desbois by bringing light into this awful darkness. By his example we must reveal these atrocoties, stand up against them, educate individuals, and love the mis-informed. Inspire more individuals to stand up for what is honorable and right even if they are intimidated and threated with their lives by the laws of the land that they live in.
    THANK YOU TOO to Father Desbois for standing up against the current denyers of these awful atrocities and for giving these victims the recognition they deserve while honouring them and their families for their meaningful and sacred lives

  • Samina

    The survivors are the most inspiring people. Hearing the stories of suffering and loss are so scary. I cant believe this happened. Its horrible. But they made it though all of the hardships and thats just amazing to me. They are very strong and stayed failthful to their religon even though they could be killed for what they believe. I stand up for the religons of people, and try to have them understand what it is that I believe. I saw an older man at the Holocaust Memorial with numbers tattooed on his arm. He was crying, it was so sad. I put my hand on his shoulder and cried too, then he began to pray and I left him for his privacy. Seeing the pictures is hard because you imagine the lives they could have had..all of those poor children and married couples, having everything taken from them including clothes and food. It also makes me feel lucky to live where I live today, safe for the most part.

  • Shania

    Yes, I am not Jewish I am Christian, but I am not sure the Germans back then were. I am not saying Germens are bed becuase many Germans hate Hitler for wht he’s done. Any Christian would not have stood to watch this happen. I am lucky America came because if not, I am an african American, Hitler would’ve killed me also. That is why young kids , like Anne Frank, shouldn’t of gone through this at a young age.

  • alexus lance

    i feel bad and i hope that the people who died,rest in peace!

  • Alex Novakov

    to people that keep blaming Ukrainians for not assisting jews, trust me they have, and I could even introduce you to jews that were saved by Ukrainians.. Now I have always wondered, no matter how hard I looked for a Jew that saved a Ukrainian during Holodomor in 1932-1933 I couldn’t find one. So look deep into yourself before blaming us..

  • Delfim Apolinário

    I agree with Alex Novakov!! Yet the Jewish people suffered greatly since they were forced to leave their homeland because of the Roman Emperor Hadrian converted to cristanismo and ….! They should be helped more but europe was controlled by the Christian church! The mind of the people were adept the word of Jesus! And the Church did not stop to point out that Jews killed Jesus … etc …! This meant that for centuries anti-Semitism grows up to its limit in World War II. But during all these centuries there were many people who helped the Jews! Many same in Portugal and there people who helped at the time of the inquisition until World War II with the opposition fascist regime of Salazar! These people flee to Brazil and Argentina! thank goodness! great people! but the situation changes when the story does not talk about situations in which Christians helped Jews! I understand that they have been persecuted but always a saying in Portugal that says: “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself”

  • les shannon

    i have not read the good priests book yet but saw the holocaust by bullets on national geo cable tv here in Australia..Here we are the moat country—large and mostly inhabited on the very large coastal areas..we are a long way from all the troubles Europe and Asia were subjected to and horrors unloaded on innocent people..Be it on mainland China, Korea, Indonesia , etc or all of Europe under communism and nazism the past 100 years have been filled with Tears. Man has invented plenty of ways to finish off his fellow human being for religion, greed,hatred,so called ethnic purity( cleansing–what a purile, nasty, word). maybe we all get sad at times that people could not live their lives in Peace and surrounded by loved ones without some sadists and politicians doing their cruelest to many millions of innocents all over the globe. ..I have noted some cynical comments and while respecting other viewpoints it seems to be novel to some a Catholic Priest has taken this extraordinary physical trip to try and find the estimated 2,000 sites of exterminated persons..More strength to him and his helpers..Mass Murder revenge genocide) must never have an expiry date, be it Ukraine, Belarus,Poland, Rwanda, Sudan ,,Cambodia etc..etc etc..

  • Joan MacLunny

    I believe it is our duty to expose evil. We must all educate ourselves as to how to identify it and stop it at its sources. It is so very difficult to admit to ourselves that we are all capable of both good and evil behavior. It may be satisfying to direct blame, but that is the easy way out. Start with your own heart; make it as honest and pure as possible. That is half the battle. The other half is finding the courage to live your convictions every day.

    It is right to encourage and admire Father Desbois. What difference does his religious affiliation make, except that because of his vocation, he has the time and resources to do this work? More importantly, he is a human being, trying to do something decent. Yes, the situation evokes much terror, anger, and pain. Please recognize it for what it is and resolve that you will do your best to make the world a better place. Pray for everyone.

  • Alberta

    We must not forget—-and yet we must also remember that this is still going on in many places on the earth. This same thing is happening to so many people because of their race, tribe or clan, religion, etc.,. It is still happening to so many people.