Saturday, October 6, 2007

A Priest on a Mission

Today's New York Times carries a front-page story about a French priest who has spent a considerable amount of time researching and documenting the killing fields of the Ukraine, where the Nazis rounded up whole Jewish farming villages and shot them in mass graves.

Father Patrick Desbois is speaking with local eyewitnesses and gathering their accounts--gaining access to information that Jewish visitors and researchers have often been unable to obtain. His work is being exhibited now in France, and his organization, Yahad in Unum, has a website.

Several years ago, a cousin of mine (Ben Weinstock) and a friend of his (David Chapin) wrote a 2-volume account of the Jews in the Letichev region of Ukraine. Entitled The Road from Letichev: The History and Culture of a Forgotten Jewish Community in Eastern Europe.

It contains photos of my grandparents, who emigrated to the U.S., and my grandfather's parents, who stayed behind and were eventually shot by the Nazis. There are maps of their village, showing where their home was located, lists of residents, and other detailed information. The book is mostly an assemblage of of original source material, with little edited out--accounting for its length. While that makes for dry reading, it's a great book to flip through.

I can't see a visit to the Ukraine in my future, but it's nice to know that a family member made the effort to document some of our history, and that Fr. Desbois is contributing to the effort to keep the memory alive of those who lived there.

Until next time...


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