Father Patrick Desbois is a French Catholic priest who, virtually single-handedly, has undertaken the task of excavating the history of previously undocumented Jewish victims of the Holocaust in the former Soviet Union, including an estimated 1.5 million people who were murdered in Ukraine. Father Desbois was born 10 years after the end of World War II — and yet, through his tireless actions, he exemplifies the “righteous gentile.” The term is generally used to recognize non-Jews who, during the Holocaust, risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis. Father Desbois is a generation too late to save lives. Instead, he has saved memory and history.
How much he has accomplished since 2002 can be seen in “The Shooting of Jews in Ukraine: Holocaust By Bullets,” which runs until March 15 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. The exhibit was created by the Memorial de la Shoah Paris in cooperation with Father Desbois’s organization, Yahad in Unum (the words for “together” in Hebrew and Latin). It follows the publication last August of his book “Holocaust By Bullets” (Palgrave MacMillan).