"The Holocaust by Bullets," at the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, documents how squads of Nazis shot 1.5 million Jews and buried them unmarked mass graves in Eastern Europe during World War II.
"The Holocaust by Bullets" is on display at the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh on Hazelwood Avenue in Greenfield.
Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images
Roman Catholic priest Patrick Desbois has dedicated himself to identifying previously unknown Holocaust-era mass graves. Since 2001, he and his team have identified the remains of over 1 million Jews and Roma in almost 1,000 mass graves across Eastern Europe.
Lauren Apter Bairnsfather, director of the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh in Greenfield.
By Marylynne Pitz / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Scholars call it “the hidden Holocaust.”
Among the 6 million Jews who perished during World War II, 1.5 million people were shot and hastily buried in unmarked mass graves in the former Soviet Union. This form of systematic genocide by the Nazis was later used in the Balkans, Cambodia, Darfur, Rwanda, Sudan and Syria.
‘The Holocaust By Bullets’
Where:Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, 826 Hazelwood Ave., Greenfield (15217).
When: Through Sept. 26, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (closed Labor Day); noon-5 p.m. Sept. 18 and 25; 4-8 p.m. Sept 6 and 20. for group tours, call 412-421-1500.
Admission: $10, free to Holocaust survivors and students with ID.
Father Patrick Desbois speaks at 7 p.m. Sept. 14 in McConomy Auditorium at Carnegie Mellon University. General admission for the lecture only is $25. Afterward, he will sign copies of his book, which will be available for purchase. To register, visit https://jfedpgh.org/register/desbois-lecture.
The undocumented killing fields were not studied until 2004, when a Roman Catholic priest, Father Patrick Desbois, began interviewing people on camera in remote villages that dot Belarus, Ukraine and Russia.
Elderly villagers told the French priest they often heard the cries of friends and neighbors and witnessed executions from a barn or an attic. Some villagers were forced at gunpoint to dig the burial pits and pour lime and sand on the bodies or cook for the Nazi assassins. The executions began in 1941 and continued through 1945.
Father Desbois was 12 when he learned his paternal grandfather was imprisoned in the Ukrainian concentration camp of Rawa-Ruska. Over the past 12 years, the priest has traveled to do interviews and research in the former Soviet Union, Poland, Germany and Israel. His gruesome findings, gathered with a team of investigators, are captured in a 2008 book, “The Holocaust by Bullets” (St. Martin’s Griffin, $18.99) and inform an exhibition that opens today at the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh in Greenfield and runs through Sept. 26.
The center’s director, Lauren Apter Bairnsfather, met Father Desbois when he spoke last October in Greensburg at Seton Hill University. For three years, she worked in the photo archives of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Visitors to the exhibition peer through cut-outs, replicating the experience of peasants who witnessed the executions through the slats of wooden barns, Ms. Bairnsfather said.
“What was done by the Nazis then in the former Soviet Union is being done today,” she said.
“Father Desbois is traveling to places like Iraq. We say, ‘Never again,’ but what we mean is ‘Never again Auschwitz.”
In June 2014, then-Gov. Tom Corbett signed a law that “strongly encourages” schools to teach students about the Holocaust, genocide and human rights violations.
To educate the public and students, the center employs Holocaust educator Rachel Herman and Michael Hamilton, the center’s education manager.
Marylynne Pitz: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1648 or on Twitter: @mpitzpg.
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to
email@example.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner.