Yahad-In-Unum was founded in Paris in 2004 by leaders in the French Catholic and Jewish communities to locate, map, cover and memorialize the sites of mass graves of Jewish victims of the Nazi mobile killing units during World War II operating in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Poland and Moldavia.
YIU is led by Father Patrick Desbois, a French Catholic priest whose grandfather was a French soldier deported to the Nazi prison camp Rava-Ruska, located in a Ukrainian town that borders Poland. Fr. Desbois was one of the Museum’s 2012 Hope for Humanity honorees.
The Museum’s current Special Exhibit through the end of the year, “Holocaust by Bullets,” tells the story of the mass killings of Jews, the murder of Roma and the disabled—and YIU’s quest to uncover the truth of the atrocities.
Alexis Kosarevsky, a project and team leader for YIU, working under Fr. Desbois’ direction, has participated in over 40 investigations in the Ukraine and Eastern Europe—research trips that have uncovered 1,700 gravesites.
At the opening reception of the new special exhibit on Sept. 10, Kosarvesky told of his first assignment—translating the testimony of an eyewitness to a mass killing of Jews in a Ukranian village during World War II by Nazis. The victims had been buried in a nearby, unmarked mass grave.
“Just a few weeks before, I was living a care-free life in Paris, a young bachelor,” Kosarevsky said. “Now, I had just retold the story of one of the worst experiences that I had ever heard in my life—of man’s inhumanity to man.”
During a break for the eyewitness, Kosarevsky said he walked to the edge of the mass grave and found himself speaking out loud. “I said to those buried there, ‘You are not forgotten anymore.’ ”
Speaking to a crowd of about 100 people gathered in the Museum’s Theater, Kosarevsky described the five stages that were part of each Nazi massacre, which are described in detail in the exhibit. All total, about 2 million people were shot and left in unmarked graves.
Tragically, it appears that modern-day massacres in areas such as Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur, the Balkans and Syria may be modeled on these village-by-village, on-site massacres perpetrated by the Nazis and their collaborators.
Neither Yahad-In-Unum—nor he, personally—will stop the quest for properly identifying and memorializing each of the victims, Kosarevsky said. “We say to the killers of the world, wherever you kill the people, we will come back to uncover and document what you have done,” he said.
In her remarks at the opening reception, Museum President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins said, “It is our fervent hope that presenting this exhibit influences all of us to work for a world in which history of this sort cannot repeat itself.”
The special exhibit is presented and sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.
Special thanks to the Carl B. and Florence E. King Foundation, for helping the Museum bring Dallas Independent School District students to visit the exhibit; 70kft; Signworks of Dallas; and for their partnership, Yahad-In-Unum and Father Desbois.
Be sure to join us on Oct. 15 for our next Upstander Speaker Series presentation: Ret. Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, former UN peacekeeping force commander for Rwanda at 6:30 p.m. at SMU.
-Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance