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January 31, 2013 2:04 pm
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Catholic Priest Addresses State Department’s Holocaust Remembrance Program

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From left to right, a panel that discussed history's implications for future behavior at the State Department on Monday: Father Patrick Desbois, president of Yahad-In Unum; Suzanne Brown-Fleming of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Ambassador Douglass Davidson, Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues; Victoria Holt, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the State Department; and moderator Ambassador Michael Kozak, interim Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

A city accustomed to House and Senate hearings witnessed a different kind of testimony on Monday.

Father Patrick Desbois, a Roman Catholic priest and president of the Yahad-In Unum (YIU) Association of France, has undertaken the mission to investigate the mass executions of Jews and Roma between 1941 and 1944. He has located the graves of more than 1 million Jews at 68 sites throughout Eastern Europe.

Desbois spoke on Monday at the U.S. State Department in Washington, DC, during the government’s marking of United Nations’ International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

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“These killings took place in public,” he said. “It was like a show. Children were taken to watch the shooting of the Jews.”

At the State Department’s George C. Marshall Auditorium, Ambassador Michael Kozak—interim Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism—led a panel discussion on history’s implications for future behavior. The panel also included Father Desbois, Suzanne Brown-Fleming of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Ambassador Douglass Davidson, Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues; and Victoria Holt, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the State Department.

Father Desbois’s research is extensive and growing. He is preparing an interactive Google map designed to tell the story of each Eastern European village where executions took place.

“The big difference now is that you can take a picture and expose it…. There is a new generation [of people] who want to know, both inside and outside of Europe, including in China and India,” he said. “They understand the implications of the lessons of the Holocaust.”

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