Downtown exhibit on Holocaust by Bullets | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Downtown exhibit on Holocaust by Bullets


From April 20 through May 23 the Holocaust by Bullets museum exhibit will be on display in Milwaukee, giving people the chance to learn about this lesser-known side of the Holocaust.

Created from the work done by the Rev. Patrick Desbois, a French priest, the exhibit includes photographs and videotaped eye witness testimonies about the fields and forests where millions of Jews and Roma were executed by Nazis in the early 1940s.

Desbois will also be in attendance and will speak on April 19.

“I’m very pleased we get to see it and that it gets to be in the community for five weeks,” said Hannah Rosenthal, president and CEO of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. “I’m really thrilled he’s coming here and others can meet this incredible man. He’s one of my personal heroes.”

The exhibit will include photographs, including some that require people to be of a certain height to see, and videos of witness statements.

“It’s not easy to listen to,” Rosenthal said.

Funding for the exhibit came from An Anonymous Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Bader Philanthropies, The Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center, Jewish Museum Milwaukee, the Kennedy Kennedy Barnett Families, and Nina and Richard Edelman. The Milwaukee area has an interest in Holocaust education, Rosenthal said, and donors were ready to support bringing this exhibit and Desbois to speak.

Nancy Kennedy Barnett, a member of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation Board of Directors, was among the donors.

“It is such a powerful story,” she said. “I wanted to make his work available to more people. Not everyone can take a week out and go to Lithuania and to Poland like my husband and I did. But I can help bring this to Milwaukee for more people to see.”

For those who went on the tours with Desbois, his coming to Milwaukee is something they say shouldn’t be missed.

Marsha Sehler went on two Milwaukee Jewish Federation-organized mission trips with Desbois. His intensity has stayed with her, she said.

“You feel he’s a man that has a mission to accomplish and he has a short time to accomplish it because his window with the witnesses is narrowing daily,” she said. “There’s a certain amount, with Father Desbois, a great sense of tension and this dynamic that he wants to get this work done as far as he can take it in the time that’s allotted.”

Sehler saw the exhibit in New York City last year, when it was unveiled at the United Nations.

“It’s one thing to see an exhibit and it’s a start,” she said. “But the best part is that Father Desbois will be there and him telling the story is like nobody else. Who else can tell this story like he can?”

Kerns called it “almost crucial” for American Jews to be exposed to Desbois’ work.

“I think it’s an honor to host him here and have this exhibit,” he said. “If that will bring even a microcosm of understanding, it’s worth it for anybody to go and see it, Jew or not.”

Kerns said his tour with Desbois “shattered” his perspective on the Holocaust.

“I had no idea the depth and the extent to which the Holocaust by Bullets was such a big part, “he said. “(Desbois) has taken it upon himself to give dignity and to give voice to the forgotten individuals.”

Desbois has found almost 1,900 mass graves, more than 2,100 execution sites and interviewed more than 5,300 eyewitnesses. His organization, Yahad in Unum (Together in One, in Hebrew and Latin), is dedicated to preserving the memory of those who died to combat anti-Semitism and future genocides around the world.

“You can study the history and read the books, know the facts and figures, but until you go overseas and walk the footsteps and see the places, it doesn’t solidify,” Kerns said. “If this brings even a fraction of that feeling to American Jews, it’s done its job.”

“He’s a Catholic priest and he has dedicated his life to uncovering the stories of anybody who has been marginalized and murdered,” Kerns said.

Desbois’ work is about “uncovering and telling the story of people who can’t tell their own story,” Kerns said.

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How to go

Holocaust by Bullets exhibit

Where: Atrium of the Helfaer Community Service Building, 1360 N. Prospect Avenue, just outside Jewish Museum Milwaukee

When: April 20 to May 23, 2017. Monday- Thursday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (open until 7 p.m. on April 20 and May 18). Friday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Sunday 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday: Closed

Cost: Free

Appropriate for high school students and older

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Speaker: Father Patrick Desbois

Where: Atrium of the Helfaer Community Service Building, 1360 N. Prospect Avenue, just outside Jewish Museum Milwaukee

When: Wednesday, April 19, 2017. 7 p.m.

Cost: $10, tickets available at

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Read more: The Holocaust – not just by camps but also by bullets