In commemoration of Yom Hashoa, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Father Patrick Desbois, the French Catholic priest committed to documenting unmarked mass graves of the Holocaust, speaks with Foer, bestselling author and recent appointee to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, about preservation and memory.
Father Desbois and his team have crisscrossed the countryside in Ukraine and across Eastern Europe in an effort to locate every mass grave and site at which Jews were killed during the Holocaust. To date, they have identified over 800 locations. They also collect artifacts and record video testimonies from eyewitnesses-many of whom are speaking publicly for the first time. His extraordinary work to preserve the memory of Ukraine's former Jewish community and to advance understanding of the crimes committed there during the Holocaust has received international media attention.
Father Desbois is the author of The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest's Journey to Uncover the Truth behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews.
Foer's debut novel, Everything is Illuminated, centered on the Holocaust and Ukraine during that era.
Father Patrick Desbois
Father Desbois has devoted his life to researching the Holocaust, fighting anti-Semitism, and improving the relations between Catholic and Jews. He is the advisor to the Vatican on Jewish relations and the founder of Yahad-in Unum.
In 2004, Father Desbois began leading missions to the Ukraine and Belarus, where he interviews witnesses to the Jewish massacres between 1941 and 1943. In these interviews, he allows the witnesses to give voice to what they saw, recording their testimony in the first-ever systematic investigation of the Nazi's massacres of Jews in former Soviet territory.