The Holocaust by Bullets by Patrick Debois
Father Patrick Debois is a French Catholic Priest whose grandfather was imprisoned by the Germans in 1942 in the Ukraine. Inspired by his grandfather, Debois travels around Ukraine looking to unearth stories about how the Jews were treated in these small villages during WWII. He finds many elders willing to share their stories of what they witnessed while they were children. The Jews were trucked to pits that had been dug into the earth, forced to undress, and then shot en mass. Those that were shot fell in to the pits and the next group came waiting for their execution. The same story is told in many different villages.
Debois also learns about how non-Jewish villagers were forced to help the Germans by digging the pits, packing the bodies with sand, guarding the pits, cooking for the Germans between the executions, etc. According to Debois, this was a previously unknown fact that locals had been requisitioned by the Germans to do work like this. Using the bullets left in the mass graves, Desbois and his team were able to find graves, where the shooters stood, and determine the number of Jews killed, which was 1.5 million.
Interviews of individuals were transcribed for this book, most of them heart-breaking. The similarities between them all was interesting. Not all the people that wound up in the pit were dead and many said that the ground moved for days after. I read this book on the train and my eyes would well up. I just cannot understand why. What was the point of all of this death and personal destruction?
At times the book felt repetitive, but this story needed to be told. Some of the information that Debois found was new to people that have been studying the holocaust for many years. The worst part is that I bet hardly any of those that took part in the executions were brought to justice.
First Line: "Outside the window of our blue van the lush Ukrainian landscape streamed before my eyes."