Think genocide and the first thing you probably think of is the Holocaust. Yet every once in a while, evidence surfaces that the Holocaust was even worse than most of us can imagine.
Take the Reverend Patrick Desbois, a French Roman Catholic priest (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Desbois). His grandfather was a French soldier in World War II who had been captured and sent to the Nazi prison camp in Rava-Ruska, Ukraine. Like many war survivors, the elder Desbois didn’t want to talk about what he had witnessed, which made his grandson very curious. Rev. Desbois knew that more than 15,000 Jews had lived in this area at one time, but his initial inquiries were brushed off. Then, after repeated requests, the truth began to emerge. One village investigation led to others, and now Desbois estimates there are no less than 1 million victims buried in 1,200 graves in Ukraine alone.
This initial work led to the founding of Yahad-In Unum in 2004, an organization that collects information about the mass killing of Jews and Roma in Eastern Europe between 1941 and 1944. This includes interviewing witnesses and locating mass graves. Would you like to check on a relative or a particular village in this area? The group’s website has an interactive map for this purpose ( http://yahadmap.org/#map/ ); the number of documented execution sites is now up to 1434.
Unfortunately, Rev. Desbois’ work now has a more contemporary purpose — he is also investigating persecution of the Yazidis, an ethnic religious minority under attack by ISIS in northern Iraq.
As an amateur student of history, I sometimes wonder how much progress civilization has actually made. At least Rev. Desbois gives me hope.