Q&A with the Father Patrick Desbois | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Q&A with the Father Patrick Desbois

During the “Holocaust by Bullets,” entire communities that never saw the camps were murdered.

An exhibit focusing on that aspect of the Holocaust is coming to Milwaukee this spring, along with the man responsible for the field work that has brought these stories out of the past and into the present. The Rev. Patrick Desbois has spent years going to small towns and interviewing the people who remember what happened.

Why do you do this work?

First, I’m not alone. We are 25 full time in Yahad in Paris and they are mainly young people and we are working to find evidences of the crimes against the Jews and the Roma and in Iraq because we want to establish clearly evidence of the genocide of Jews. There are more and more deniers. But there are evidences in the villages. We find the cartridges, the neighbors.

We will be without survivors very soon. We have to teach (the Holocaust) as a crime, so we have to study quickly as a crime.

Father Patrick Desbois at killing field site in Lithuania. Photo by Nancy Kennedy Barnett.


How do you find the villages?

First we work to translate the German archives, the Soviet archives, so we make a map of the area. And after we arrive, the team of 10 to 11 people go early in the morning and knock on the door looking for people present at the shooting of the Jews or Gypsies.

What will you speak about in Milwaukee?

I will speak of that, I will speak about how we built the new methodology to understand the crime, where they were shooting all the Jews in one day. What was the technique and how today this way of killings is what every mass killer is doing. If you build a camp you have memory, photograph, satellite picture. With shooting and bombing, even if publicly, no one will come back. They are put in mass graves and people are afraid of mass graves.

What should people know before they come to hear you speak or to see the exhibit?

It’s more to switch our vision, not to consider the Holocaust as a tsunami but as a crime, with criminals, with methodology, with evidences. We have to fight. It’s not of the past. We have to care. There are more than 2 million Jews who have been shot.

In Milwaukee … they organize travel to say kaddish where nobody says the prayers. Hannah Rosenthal is a key person. I’ve known her since she was working in the State Department. There’s a very long story of friendship between Milwaukee and Paris. We have to stand together to fight against it.

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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 MilwaukeeJewish.org/Bullets

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