Roman Catholic priest Patrick Desbois will become Chief Strategy Officer and Chair of Scientific Council of the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center (BYHMC), Interfax reported on Tuesday.
Desbois is the founder and president of the French organization Yahad-In Unum, dedicated to locating mass graves of Jewish victims of the Nazi mobile killing units, especially the Einsatzgruppen, in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, and Moldova. Desbois’ father was a French soldier who was deported to the Nazi prison camp Rava-Ruska in Ukraine.
Babi Yar is a ravine in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv where massacres were carried out by German forces during their campaign against the Soviet Union in World War II. The first and best-documented massacres took place on September 29-30, 1941, killing 33,771 Jews. Sonderkommando 4a soldiers, along with the aid of the SD and SS Police Battalions with the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police backed by the Wehrmacht, carried out the murders.
It was the largest mass killing under the auspices of the Nazi regime and its collaborators during the 1941 campaign against the Soviet Union and is considered to have been the largest single massacre in the history of the Holocaust at the time, surpassed later in October 1941 by the Odesa massacre of more than 50,000 Jews.
“Almost 20 years ago, my team and I began to investigate the Holocaust by Bullets in Ukraine followed by other countries, in each village occupied by the Nazi units. That is why it is a great honor to serve the memory and the dignity of the Jews killed in Kiev and Ukraine with the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center’s wonderful team,” Desbois commented.
Desbois has been awarded honorary doctorates by several universities in Israel, the United States, and Canada. He was awarded the Medal of Valor by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Humanitarian Award by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. He received the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest honor, for his work documenting the Holocaust. In 2015, Desbois, with Yahad-In Unum, documented ISIS crimes committed against the Yazidi people and interviewed several hundred Yazidi survivors.
Since 2016, Desbois is the Endowed Professor of the Practice of the Forensic Study of the Holocaust at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.