A French priest believes he is “halfway through the task of locating all of the Nazi-era Jewish mass graves in Eastern Europe” – that is, those containing the bodies of hundreds of thousands of Jews who were marched out of their villages by SS forces and shot to death, rather than being sent to concentration camps.
At The Jewish Daily Forward, Fr. Patrick Debois, director of the group Yahad – In Unum, says that many of these gravesites – located in Russia, Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus – were long forgotten during Soviet rule in those countries, only to become accessible again once that government fell.
Now Yahad – In Unum has deployed four teams that go door-to-door, looking for elderly residents who are willing to provide testimony about what they witnessed during World War II. …The purpose of these interviews, Debois told the Forward, is not to dive into motives and feelings of residents, but merely to collect the facts. “We are like investigators,” he said. Based on the interviews and on documentation, the activists locate the mass graves, mark them and dedicate the site in a Jewish ceremony.
Because the witnesses to the Nazi atrocities are quickly aging and passing away, Debois believes his group has about another five years to uncover more testimony leading to the locations of the remaining mass graves.
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