Priest who exposed Nazi crimes visits England

Fr Patrick Desbois

Fr Patrick Desbois

A Catholic priest credited with finding forgotten mass graves of hundreds of Jews murdered by Nazi 'mobile killing units' is to speak about his five year at Manchester Cathedral quest on Monday, May 18.

Father Patrick Desbois was invited by the Holocaust historian Dr Jean-Marc Dreyfus from The University of Manchester.

The priest, who is an international figure though almost unknown in the UK, will visit the University's Centre for Jewish Studies and deliver a public lecture at Manchester Cathedral later in the evening.

He has recently completed five years of travelling thousands of miles through remote Ukrainian villages speaking to elderly witnesses and finding the sites of graves.

The mobile killing units were said to have been deployed in Ukraine, Eastern Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Russia.

Dr Dreyfus said: "Father Desbois has shattered decades of secrecy and denial about the slaughter of Jews beyond the confines of the concentration camps.

"He has located more than 750 killing sites but suspects there may be many more mass graves.

"We are most grateful to have this opportunity for compelling and valuable dialogue between Christians and Jews.

"We have a moral responsibility for uncovering the truth about the Holocaust and keeping the memory alive in as many people as possible - so we can never forget what happened."

Dr Dreyfus estimates that 1.5 million people were murdered by killing units - heavily armoured trucks manned by the SS and armed police.

Historians, he says, have long known about mass executions outside the concentration camps.

Dr Dreyfus added: "Father Desbois has filled in a missing piece of history by interviewing the last Ukrainian witnesses firsthand.

"Thanks to his work, we now have hundreds of accounts of how trucks would arrive at remote villages, march Jews to a nearby forest, force them to dig a pit and shoot them at close range.

"The murders were often in full view of neighbours and acquaintances - who sometimes received the possessions of the dead.

"That and the fact that nobody had made the effort to interview them may explain their silence for so long."

Fr Desbois is also director of the Episcopal committee for relations with Judaism, and an advisor to the Vatican on Catholic Jewish relations.

He set up the French charity Yahan-In Unum which promotes Catholic Jewish relations and conducts research in Eastern Europe.

Visit Father Desbois' website at

The Holocaust by Bullets, a presentation by Father Desbois, will be at Manchester Cathedral on 18 May at 7pm. Admission is free. The talk is hosted by the Council of Christians and Jews (Manchester branch)

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