A USC Shoah Foundation exhibit and recent New York Times article remember that millions of people were murdered not in concentration camps, but in public sites all over Eastern Europe.
The article, Shedding Light on a Vast Toll of Jews Killed Away from the Death Camps, details the increasing attention historians are paying to the forests, villages, streets and other sites where Holocaust victims were executed and then buried in vast, unmarked graves.
Because so there are so few survivors of such killings and because they were kept secret from Western countries, little is known today about how these executions were carried out.
Rev. Patrick Desbois, a priest from France, and his full-time staff of 23 are currently interviewing execution witnesses and survivors all over the former Soviet Union, most of whom have never told their stories before.
Desbois gave a keynote address discussing his field research on identifying sites of mass execution in Ukraine at USC Shoah Foundation’s Yom HaShoah Commemoration in April 2012.
USC Shoah Foundation produced a multimedia online exhibit “Pain of Memory” as a companion to the 2011 Ukrainian traveling exhibition The Holocaust by Bullets: Mass Shootings of Jews in Ukraine, 1941-1944. The exhibition was produced by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation in partnership with Mémorial de la Shoah, Yahad-In Unum, and the Ukrainian Embassies of Israel, France, Germany, and the United States, based on the work of Yahad-In Unum and its President, Rev. Desbois.
“Pain of Memory” includes testimony of Ukrainian Holocaust survivors from the Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive as well as testimony from Desbois’s collection. The survivors reveal their experiences with mass shootings, the choices they faced, and their thoughts on preserving their memories. Each part of the lesson also includes biographical and contextual information.