CCJU Presents 'The Holocaust by Bullets'

News Story: February 1, 2009

Father Patrick Desbois

Father Patrick Desbois, a French priest and historian, will explore the little-known story of the murder of 1.5 million Eastern European Jews by the Nazis during World War II. “Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Ukrainian Holocaust” will take place at Sacred Heart University’s Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, March 4, at 2 P.M. The free public event is sponsored by the University’s Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding (CCJU) and the Anti-Defamation League. It is a part of the University’s Human Journey Colloquia series.

More than 60 years after the horrific events took place, Father Desbois is gathering the eye-witness accounts of numerous people who were directly involved in the systematic massacre. Many were then children who saw – or were forced to participate in – the slaughter. The French priest’s work is a race against time since the Ukrainian survivors are in their 70s and 80s. Unlike the more familiar system of mass murder practiced in the concentration camps, the Ukrainian extermination involved gangs of Nazi killers who would round up local Jews by the thousands and shoot them to death, often already lined up in what would become their mass grave. Local children were commandeered to collect clothing and even gold teeth. Their stories have never been told till this groundbreaking work.

According to Dr. Ann M. Heekin, the CCJU’s director of programs and publications, “Father Desbois’ research is working to complete an important chapter in the history of the Shoah, as the Holocaust is also known. It represents a significant milestone in Christian-Jewish collaboration in preserving the memory and confirming the facticity of the Holocaust.”

The Christian Science Monitor says that Desbois is “a human bridge between the modern Jewish world and the Catholic Church and a major conduit through which the Holocaust will be remembered,” and an Israeli newspaper called him, simply, “Patrick the saint.” Information on his organization’s work is available at – a combination of the Hebrew and Latin words for “together.”

The Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding is an educational and research arm of Sacred Heart University. The sponsor of numerous international conferences and publications, it works to promote dialogue and peace through a respectful understanding of these two great religious traditions.

For further information on the work of the Center and on this special event, contact CCJU at 203-365-7592.