fL FILMAKERS LIBRARY
Rawa Ruska , Ukraine
Patrick Desbois My grandfather - who was such a cheerful man - told me, it was hard for us in Rawa Ruska , we ate dandelions, grass. But for the others it was worse. And so I started to come here, to try to understand. Our daily round was work. One group worked at the station, and another on the roads. They were ordered to destroy the Jewish cemetery, but I know they refused. Some of the commandos were very hard, and others weren’t as bad. But they worked all the time with Jews from the ghetto, the men and women from the ghetto. But the difference was that the same number never returned. So, there were summary executions, because a guard got annoyed or simply because he just didn’t want to bring any Jews back. They saw a huge amount of things like that, they were condemned to see. That was their main sentence - to see…
Patrick Desbois The Ukraine , my vocation as a priest, my identity and the Holocaust are one. This is part of the circle of my life and I wanted to understand…
France 3 presents A mano a mano production
Shoah by Bullet The Forgotten History A film by Romain Icard
I’ll tell you a story. I know that here in front of the church, at the corner of the house next door, an unspeakably cruel German soldier grabbed a Jewish woman’s child from her. He was barely two years old, and he took him and banged his head repeatedly against the wall. The child died in pools of blood in front of the parent’s eyes. Brothers and sisters in faith, maybe some of you here today know something about the tragedies that took place during the war, under the Nazi occupation. About how Jewish families lived and died. I beg you, if you know something, tell. But now, let us pray, together. Glory to the Lord…
What do you remember the Jews who lived here?
Olha Havrylivna Yes, I remember, when we lived here, we saw arrests, killings, executions… They brought them to the edge of a pit and shot them. But you could see the pit move, because some of them were still alive. We were young and it was hard to watch. It was a tragedy, a great tragedy. What’s my name? Koutcha Olha Havrylivna .
And what age were you during the war?
I was 15.
We’ll come to see you later; it’s not very feasible here.
Alright, I’ll tell you what I know.
Patrick Desbois There are no gas chambers, no camps or no tattoos here. Everyone was killed quickly. They were shot. The Holocaust by bullets, all over the continent…
Patrick Desbois In the West we thought we would never find these Jewish victims of the Holocaust, that they had disappeared. But, they were often buried under a ditch. We are now examining all the murder sites to find the bodies, to find the proof. The bodies can then be buried with dignity. Humanity begins with burying our dead.
Olga Havrylivna Aged 12 in 1942
How do you know that Jews were killed here?
Olga Havrylivna But, because everybody talked about it, our parents talked about it. Everyone knew that Jews were killed here at Oukopysko. The day we came to see they brought a lot of Jews here. There must have been 60 or 70. We looked on. We didn’t go too near, we stayed over there, but we children could still see everything.
Patrick Desbois Where did the pit start?
Olga Havrylivna Somewhere over there, as far as here.
Patrick Desbois Up to the tree?
Olga Havrylivna Yes, that’s right.
How many soldiers fired?
Olga Havrylivna -A lot. A lot.
Olga Havrylivna More. There were a lot of guards when they brought them here. All around the pit and in front of them as well. There must have been about 15 Germans.
Were the Jews standing or on their knees when they were killed?
Olga Havrylivna Standing, standing, standing. They were in groups. They formed a line and they shot them. Then a new line came up and they were shot.
Patrick Desbois Was that how it happened?
Olga Havrylivna Yes, yes, they had their backs to their pit, and they shot them.
Patrick Desbois And the commander, he stood to the side?
Olga Havrylivna Yes, on the side like this.
Patrick Desbois They didn’t get into the pit?
Olga Havrylivna No, nobody pushed them into the pit. They killed them and the Jews fell in.
Olga Havrylivna That’s what I saw.
Did they shoot them in the back or face to face?
Olga Havrylivna -In the back.
Patrick Desbois -They shot them in the back.
Patrick Desbois We’re now leaving Rawa Ruska for Rovno , where we’ve already begun. I think that it would be better to begin in the North.
Yes, the North is much different from the South.
Patrick Desbois We’ve already done Lubijiv . In my opinion, we have enough information to do this area.
Yeah, and there’s a large ghetto at Sarny .
Patrick Desbois In Sarny alone, 13,000 Jews were killed, 33 hanged. 91 tortured and then killed, 13,895 all told. There is a huge amount of testimony from people who witnessed the killings. Historically, this project shows how each person was killed by one person with the aid of other people. I just couldn’t listen to some of the first witnesses I spoke to and I stopped several interviews. I said we’d stop here, thank you. It’s too awful. And then I thought, ok, but if you let the horror take over, you’ll never know the truth and that would give Hitler a posthumous victory. I had to stay calm and not show my emotion and reconstruct the crime.
What do you want to do with your grandfather?
He was at the front at the time. We’re looking for your grandmother.
Ok, I’ll go with you.
You were in the forest when it started?
Yes, I was up in a tree somewhere over there. I couldn’t tell you exactly which one. We were playing with our sleds when the Germans arrived. Then we heard shots and we saw smoke. We were told not to go over there.
What did you see from the tree?
We saw how they took them up. There were guards and they passed along there, but it was higher there at that time. They beat them and pushed them down from the trucks. Then we heard shots and people crying.
Did it last long?
Yes, it was a long time. It must have started in 1941 , when the Germans arrived. Nothing happened for two months. We continued to play in the forest, trapping squirrels, etc. and then it started. There were massacres here all during the German occupation.
Were they adults or children?
Mostly adults. That’s what I saw. But, there were some children they said, others saw children. I wasn’t the only one who saw. People didn’t watch all the time. It was terrifying. When you see cattle taken to the slaughter, it’s frightening - but these were people. We couldn’t help hearing pa-pa-pa-pa-pa. They were shooting. You know, I really want you to know that we lived in fear. We were afraid that we’d be the last ones into the grave. We witnessed it; we saw everything. We were afraid that the last bodies would be ours, that they would take all the witnesses.
Patrick Desbois They made them run down the path to the mass graves that were ready for them. There were 49 graves altogether. Not all at the same time. They dug one pit, filled it and then started another. This is an extermination site.
Patrick Desbois Officially, there was no mass grave at this site. And all neighbours who were interviewed at Chevchenko Street, that’s 10 people, said that they killed Jews in the cemetery.
Patrick Desbois First of all we had to ask Grand Rabbi Blaich , the Grand Rabbi of the Ukraine , to request it. Rabbinic law absolutely prohibits moving a bone, especially the remains of the victims of the Holocaust, who are seen as saints by the Jewish Orthodoxy. We received the permission and the area was marked out with archaeologists, monitored by a Rabbi from the Zaka orthodox movement. We had to balance the requirements of Rabbinic law and the needs of the archaeologists on the other. And then in the Ukraine , we weren’t used to opening up a mass grave containing the bodies of Jewish victims. We discovered that there were 17 graves. It was very hard…
We are dealing here with a very interesting and huge puzzle and this huge… huge, uh… puzzle is coming together and it's confirming that Ukraine uh… was and remains a huge cemetery.
Paul Shapiro This is just another piece of… of documentation. Martin has found documentation relating to pla… I think a couple of places that you have been but several that are on your agenda to go to.
My… my pet project is parallel to Patrick's I’m trying to identify the ghettos in Ukraine and whenever I find a sketch map or a drawing where the ghetto was, for me this is very… very useful, but often of course they… they show the mass graves as well. Um… if you look at this one here, from Vyshnivets did you go to Vyshnivets …
Patrick Desbois No.
…this is a town in Volhynia just on the border into Galicia .
Patrick Desbois Yeah we are just… I know…
And it's interesting for this town we actually have a number of different sources which corroborate each other.
Patrick Desbois Where… where does it come from?
It's in the regional KGB archive in Tarnapol and the… the protocol is taken by two witnesses, I think they were bystander witnesses and they described that the… the person being investigated participated in… in the shooting and it, uh… shows the route they took from the ghetto and one of the, um… survivors describes, on the day this happened on… on the 12th of August um… an SS man came and he made a speech to the Ukrainian police telling them to drive all the Jews out of the ghetto and that they had to be shot outside the town, they shouldn’t be shot in the ghetto.
Patrick Desbois It's why it's also difficult to find there because people looked in the city, they've never been killed in the city.
But they are marched through the center of the town.
Patrick Desbois Yeah everybody saw that.
This is providing the… but its providing the eye witnesses.
Patrick Desbois Yeah.
…that you're interviewing today.
Paul Shapiro The reality is we tend to not want to believe, Soviet documentation because of… the reputation of the Soviet Union in some areas to not be completely true to fact. It’s just the way it is, we tend to question and scholars have tended to question the authenticity of what's in Soviet documentation. Your testimonies are saying that this is… this was seriously done.
Patrick Desbois This was well it was seriously done, yeah.
Paul Shapiro And people also tend to question testimonies taken today because 60 years have gone by because the people are elderly, but what we are seeing here in such a strong way is the reality is when you are… when you come face to face with this kind of event or this kind of tragedy, your memory does not leave you with time. It's burned in these people’s memories and having watched some of the testimonies you’ve taken, you can tell that for these… for those people it's as if this happened yesterday.
Patrick Desbois Yesterday, yeah, but it’s a…
Paul Shapiro As you are doing it at a time when it’s essential to do it because those survivors, those eye witnesses won't be there five years from now.
Patrick Desbois That’s for sure, that’s for sure
Paul Shapiro So whatever we can do to facilitate this, you have… you have total access here to this whole institution and the institution is… is with you one hundred percent.
Patrick Desbois I know, it’s… it's also because of that that it works, because in some complicated places like (inaudible ) we go to the archives, we cannot work to.
Paul Shaprio Director of the Holocaust Memorial The machinery of death of the death camps and deportations it is what we know best and it’s important to know it. But it’s also important to understand that over a million and a half innocent Jewish victims were murdered in the former USSR and Ukraine in the greatest numbers. This research won't change the basic facts, basic facts are that more than a million and a half innocent people were murdered. What it will change is our understanding of what that really means. Who did what to whom? And how did they do it? On the ground, in the villages, in the towns with what motivation did they act? What were the consequences? The local consequences. What has been the impact on the people who survived.
Volyne region , Ukraine
I know nothing. I have other things to do. I don’t have the time. I know nothing.
Yossip Revonuk Aged 15 in 1942 The first execution began when I was going to the technical school, so that I wouldn’t be sent to Germany . We saw the Germans arresting Jews. They told them to take everything with them. We children ran as far as the bridge. We never went any further than that. All our group watched.
Yossip Revonuk There were thousands of people in the column and one Jew threw himself off the bridge into the river to get away. The German guard fired and I saw the way the blood flowed, but that was just a child’s curiosity. We kept watching what was happening. The Germans were taking away the Jews, but they could also have taken us by mistake and made us join the column. Then suddenly, over there behind the bridges, there are a few houses, we noticed movement in the crowd. The women started to run away and shots rang out. Then here, in this street, a German soldier killed a women and her two daughters. Right in front of my very eyes they killed the girl. I went home and started to tell my father, but he punished me soundly and told me I shouldn’t have been there, that I could’ve been killed as well, as I could’ve been Jewish or Ukrainian. So yes, I remember. It started in the ghetto sometime in the autumn. In the autumn of 1942 …
And where did they shoot people?
Yossip Revonuk Bakhiv . Here’s how it worked. They brought a train up there and told them they were going to Germany for forced labour. They piled them all in, but in reality the train skirted Kovel for about 4 kilometres and then turned into Bakhiv . The train was going to the sand quarry and that’s where they shot them.
And nobody has asked them. Thousands of them saw the Holocaust close-up and nobody asked them about it. They are often asked why they’re talking now. The answer right across the Ukraine never varies: because you asked me. Did anybody asked about it since 1942 ? No, never. They are telling what they saw for the first and maybe the last - time. The Holocaust in the East, here remains in the minds of the poor. It is also the Holocaust witnessed by poor people who hadn’t yet imbibed Soviet ideology. They are telling in their own words what happened here.
Our aim is to see the topography of the events. Then, other witnesses will appear because we know where we are.
Stop, stop, there’s a babouchka.
Where were they during the war? Where were you during the war?
I didn’t live here, I was in Karminska .
Temofis Ryzvanuk Aged 14 in 1942
It’s July 30, 2007 and we’re in the Loutsk region in the village of… Bakhiv . We’re at the house of… - Temofis Semenovitch Rizvanuk . My name is Temofis Semenovitch Rizvanuk .
-And what year was he born in?
-What year were you born in?
Temofis Ryzvanuk In 1928 .
And where did he live during the war?
Temofis Ryzvanuk I lived near the quarry, I was born there. I’ll tell you how it happened. We had trains here and they immediately made a track. The train went in and they loaded the ballast from the pits. We didn’t know why the Germans were forcing the Jews to do that. Why they were digging those big holes, we didn’t know they were for the Jews. The Germans beat them with some sort of whips. The women cried and screamed, but they still took small shovels and loaded up the train so they were working. Everybody was afraid. We were so afraid of the Germans. They had things on their caps, they were terrifying. My father’s brother said: don’t be afraid, no one is going to kill you. They’re only killing Jews. And they realized that they were going to be killed. They stripped them naked, men and women. When they had killed them, they put them beside each other, head to head, to pile in as many as possible, to save space. The Germans had automatic rifles and when they got close to the pit they shot them.
How long did it take to kill a whole wagonload?
Temofis Ryzvanuk One whole wagon? A few minutes. A few minutes, that’s all, nobody left. It was all so well organised, a production line. They had barely gotten out when they fell and were pushed in and piled together, head to head like herrings. Then the next wagonload arrived, and then the next.
Were there people in charge in cars?
Temofis Ryzvanuk Yes, there were six cars. They stayed a little distance away. Six cars, all German officers. They watched, hooted their horns and left. I know I saw insignias. They were SS, but special. They were like some kind of communists… Me, I’m old and I don’t care, but I don’t want my family sent to Siberia .
Patrick Desbois Hello. Does he remember where the mass graves are? Tell him that we know where they are, but not the exact location of the graves.
We know the place, but not the exact spot where the graves are, can you bring us there?
Igor Chemko Don’t know, I don’t have much time.
Tomorrow if you prefer.
Patrick Desbois Maybe we should find someone else.
You show us and we’ll bring you back in the car. You just show us, it won’t be long.
Igor Chemko Aged 15 in 1942
There are two mass graves there; one is behind, over there. And there was a mass grave here.
- The big one, which is it?
Patrick Desbois Wait, ask him, wait. How was it dug? What was it like? A long one?
Igor Chemko How should I know? It was this long, like this.
That’s the large grave, there.
-How many people?
That’s a bone.
Yes, a bit of a skull.
Igor Chemko The grave took up all that, there.
Patrick , I think that this hole was made by looters and grave robbers… There, that’s bone. Here. A bone. All those bones have been taken out recently.
Patrick Desbois And that says volumes about what is going on. Look, each grave robber has a hole. It’s simple. There’s one over there. It’s like a site for them. There are three of them. One there and a large one over here. They dig systematically hoping to find jewellery or gold teeth. We’ve heard witnesses describe it. They take away heads in a bag and go through them at home. We’ll look for cartridge cases.
Patrick , a German cartridge case.
It’s a seal, for signing letters, in Hebrew. Oh! There Patrick , a seal with the name in Hebrew.
Patrick Desbois Bulger Soderma… I’m not sure. If that is the name, it’s incredible, he threw in his name so that someone could find him.
Patrick Desbois So we’re coming into Loubijov . Maybe here we’ll interview people in the square, old people. Over there’s a good spot, you have the bus station, the market, the restaurant and the church, so we’re at the heart of the village life.
The Nazis didn’t say that first they weren’t obeying the secrecy order, but that they also had moonlighters. There were an awful lot of moonlighting death workers. They put them into groups and had them dig the graves. Or ordered them to walk on the bodies between each execution.
Stepan Unchik Aged 18 in 1942
Stepan Unchik I had Jewish friends in my hamlet, two boys. We hid them and fed them in my parent’s house. The father and mother asked us to hide them -they’re killing us, they said. The hamlet was 5 kilometres from here. Me, they conscripted me when I lived there. The Germans arrived, two of them and took the able bodied young people. I was at that time - be quiet, go to bed. They took us and showed us a spot. To be more precise, there were stakes planted to mark out the ground we had to dig. There were 3,700 souls in that grave. Even children were buried over there. When it was over there was a hillock. To tell the truth, we used a digger to put sand on top and the blood spread out over more than a metre. Any of us who had horses were ordered to go to the ghetto and get lime to pour over it. The grave formed a mound, they killed 3,600 souls. The blood rose.
Did your father die in the village?
Nadia Stepanova Yes, he was burned to death in the church. When we buried him we only identified him by a piece of his jacket. He was unrecognisable otherwise. He was burned to ashes.
Nadia Stepanova Aged 13 in 1942 Misha Stepanova Aged 15 in 1942
Tell us how it happened.
Nadia Stepanova How it happened? The German soldiers advanced from Loutsk to occupy the whole region. This is the part where there were no houses, you probably noticed, there are no buildings. There was an act of resistance against the Germans. After the shooting they stopped in the village and spent the night. In the morning they gathered all the people. They separated the Jews and shoved them into the ghetto, like you said , into a barn, men on one side and women and children on the other. Shots rang out. And then they dug the mass graves and we thought, we’re all going to die, like in the nearby villages.
Were many Jews executed?
Misha Stepanova -What?
- Were many Jews killed?
Misha Stepanova I think they must have killed about 1,000. There are two mass graves over there. They dug large graves up to the tree over there. They used diggers for two of them. They brought them here in trucks and shot them, the Jews. Even tiny children, so high. They lay them down, killed them and threw others on top. I don’t know how many were killed there. Many, many.
Did you see the trucks with the Jews?
Misha Stepanova But of course I saw them. We saw how they brought them here in trucks, how they stripped them naked. Everything off and into the hole. Lie down.
Please, Give me your hand.
Misha Stepanova Over there, the graves are over there.
We’d better take the road. This way.
Misha Stepanova There, there’s a large grave. And there was another one beside it. It was this size.
Patrick Desbois How far did it go, to these plants?
Misha Stepanova I don’t remember exactly how far it went.
What is it? Tell me where the second mass grave is, where? So, why did you come here if you don't know? What do you want? Drink? Money? When they were killed, you lived over there, far over, you weren’t here!
Misha Stepanova I lived there at the time.
Show me where the graves are? Where is the second grave? Where?
You don’t know! Me, I saw how they killed them, because I lived here.
You, you lived over there!
What do you know about it, you bastard?
Leonid Kvil Aged 7 in 1942
Leonid Kvil He didn’t even live here.
Did you go near the grave?
Leonid Kvil I’ll tell you. If my mother didn’t know people in the police who collaborated, I wouldn’t be here. A German soldier was pulling me by the hand to put me in the grave. And then someone said, he’s not a Jew. If not, I would have been stretched out like them. So! My mother took me by the hand, I was with my younger brother and we both went back there. To see. It was terrible.
Where was he on the day of the executions?
Leonid Kvil Where do you think? At home is where. It began, I remember, just before the harvest. We had just started to cut the hay. There were very few houses here. Nobody lived here. This man, us and Paraska. When they dug the pit, nobody knew why, even the Jews didn’t know they’d be killed And the next day, a truck, a lorry actually, arrived here and they went all over. And there were no houses here yet, only Klym and Vlasko, that’s all. And they began bringing them in the truck. Bringing them in the lorry, there were two trucks or three. I don’t remember exactly. I was small… They took them and drove them towards the pit. They took off all their clothes, naked, and over there, three German submachine guns, big ones, you know, huge, waited for them. They stripped them and into the pit. There were only sparks. And we were young, we looked on, we were interested. They killed them, and the trucks picked up the clothes and took everything back to the ghetto, in the centre of town. Then they put more Jews on top of the ones they had killed. Some weren’t even dead. And it all began again. They had put them all together in the ghetto and for two days this went on! They covered up the grave. It moved for 6 months and the blood flowed. They took the clothes, brought them to the ghetto and went on killing. The Germans took the jewellery. All the earrings, everything, they took everything.
How far did the blood flow in the grave?
Leonid Kvil Maybe three hundred-four hundred metres. It flowed as far as the river. It was horrible.
Nikola Kristitch Aged 8 in 1942
Do you remember the beginning of the executions?
Nikola Kristitch Yes. It was a Friday. We were near the river taking out the sower. There were nine of us boys. Then we heard “Bah, bah”, something was going “bah”. We glanced around and saw vehicles, here, near Mohky’s and Kopysk’s houses. We looked and we saw three policemen and a German coming. We ran and they started shooting at us. We stopped. Who are you? We said we were taking out the sower. What are you doing around here? Scram or we’ll kill you! We ran for our lives. And here, there was a house, on the edge, near Kopysk. We hid behind that house to see what was going on. One after the other the cars came, black crows as we called them. They pushed them, roughly, the small children… I can’t tell. The children, thrown into the pit by the hand. And the others were completely naked and walked with the Rabbi at their head. He gave a sermon, to all those who were already there. And the cars kept coming, there were more and more people and they went into the pit in rows. They all lay down like herrings. They lay down and there was one submachine gun and two Germans, they had the skull and crossbones on their caps. They fired a burst at the people lying there, and then more went in and another burst. They kept shooting them until nightfall. And we watched. Then the Germans went back again to get the villagers to cover the grave. People hid to escape doing it. And us kids, we hid in the bushes, out of curiosity, to see. That night, the people covered it in, but the ground was still moving, for another two days. The ground heaved. I remembered one of the girls, a young girl. Her panties were panties were around her ankles. A German fired at her and her hair caught fire, She screamed and he took an automatic rifle, got into the grave and fired. The bullet ricocheted off his knee and he bled everywhere. He bandaged his knee, he was half undressed and then he emptied his round. He even killed Jews who still had their clothes on, he couldn’t wait he was so crazed with rage. He fired at everybody, he was crazy. The next day, the Germans began searching everywhere, in the forests. They found some and dug another grave there. This was covered in and there were no more killings here. But over there, there was a second grave and all the others were killed over there, in summer, whenever they found them.
Patrick Desbois Those who took part in the killings here were sentenced. And we know that they admit killing at least 700, at least. And at the same time there were a lot of Ukrainian police who took part, everybody said it. So the killers are clearly identified. What is often estimated is the number of victims, as the people told us that it went on all through the war, and that they reopened the graves to put in more bodies. Clearly, that’s not declared, because Ostregeits was certainly declared “Judenfrei”. And afterwards, the SS probably didn’t dare to admit that they were still killing Jews, because their reports were false.
Patrick Desbois So he lived there and saw nothing?
Yes, he was born in 1926 .
Patrick Desbois Yeah, he was only 14. Ok, let’s go, we’ll come back, but they saw, they lived besides there, its not possible. Often, people are afraid to speak because of the vegetable gardens. A very small thing stops them from speaking. People think that it’s the killings, guilt, but it’s just the vegetable gardens. We’ve come across that hundreds of times.
One day, they opened it with a digger. It was probably in the ‘60s. There was a ravine, a huge pit. I don’t remember exactly, but the one who did the work told us that they found a huge amount of bones and skulls. That it gave him the shivers. There, where the car is, there’s a ravine, they buried a lot of people there. Over there too. There, where you see a tree. There, they covered it in. then higher up as well. That’s all I know, Bye.
Patrick Desbois In the West, there can be no memory of the people they didn’t bury here. whose bodies have been found with tractors, diggers, dogs. The gulf is too wide. Europe will be totally blocked with this. We’re in the heart of Europe here.
It’s not possible that there’s no rural memory of where they are. They know. they must have seen.
Misha found human bones. A child’s bone, a pelvic bone.
This is where we are. These are human bones, these are people, they’re not animals. And we’re in the middle of the town. We’re not in a village in the middle of nowhere. A desecrated Jewish cemetery. This would make international headlines normally. Not here. All the bones are in the open, everybody saw them, and the workers didn’t bother to rebury them.
These are all gravestones, but the inscriptions are on the other side. Can he turn them around? Look, letters.
I think that’s “ Yehuda’s daughter”.
We’ll try to turn that one.
There are colours on it. It’s beautiful, it must be very old. What's her name?
Patrick Desbois Massia , she was Tema’s wife. That’s her life story… told in a few words. It goes on and on. This path running perpendicular here, well it’s made from gravestones too. They’ve been tarred over, but the stones are there. You can see some of them. This is where the soldiers marched. The memory has been totally eradicated. And everything’s been reused.
Now what is happening in this special project is that these people who are left to die in the worst way possible are suddenly possibly in some way being resurrected by father Patrick and his team. I think that this is a unique opportunity to take the most evil that was done in the world possibly in world history and to take these events of over half a century ago and turn them on their head. In France and in other communities where before people looked at each other with suspicion. The local population is much more trusting of a catholic priest who is coming than a Jew from Brooklyn the first thing. This is a logical thing. This is a very simple to understand. You are coming in a place you know in the Western Ukraine were most of the people are catholic and they are seeing a catholic priest, come they say this is a good idea. If they will see me coming with a kippah from Brooklyn you know they will think this is not such a good idea, you know, so that’s the… the first point. They feel, the feeling of trust and the second one, uh… is it just wasn’t done, because the people, uh… who could do it were mostly dead. They killed million and a half people, among them a 113 people from my family.
Patrick Desbois We work with Jewish organisations, first because they know many survivors and they put us in contact with them, but also because our work will be exhibited in New York , the city with the largest number of survivors. These people say that the camps were often talked about, but never what happened to us. Brooklyn is still home to a large number of Jews from the Soviet Union . In the beginning, unfortunately, we were the ones who brought bad news. A Jewish friend once said to me: “The crime itself had been uppermost. Now you’re telling us that they’re dead and that’s very different.” The fact that we know where the bodies are, it’s not just as reminding of the crime.
How are you? Shana tova.
How do you do? Shana tova.
We dug our own grave and worked on and there were two people at the time shot. So, when it came to my name to go down, so I started no, they meantime shot somebody in the camp, so had to be brought to this grave. So I… so I was in line. So they said, fine you come in with us to bring over the man to the grave. Then at this time, they created the Death Brigade. It was called the thousand five and it was a purpose to erase any sign of criminal signs of killing. So they took out the bodies from the graves, put it on… on, uh… a, you know, both bodies, both bodies and burnt it. They sifted out the ashes to find if there is gold and that was all.
My job as inset(ph) were to take care of the golden teeth's and so on from the ashes as they burnt the bodies. So they had to bring it in on the day and in the evening somebody came from the bank, an SS man and I had to give it over to them and also some SS men were on positive sides with me because they took some gold for themselves. So, you know, so I gave it to them, so I became like important friend.
Patrick Desbois And how did you escape?
I have something to give gold to them, they opened the door and I…
Patrick Desbois And you… you ran?
…and we started to run and I did not know that they bought I was too young kind of we never out to my one neighborhood, I did not even know where to go or what to go, you run.
Patrick Desbois And when began, when did you see begins the shooting of the Jews because in (inaudible ) they shot a lot of Jews, you know.
They put barbed wire all round at the end of the war. They brought the Jews and made them live here. They dug up the bodies and burned them. Two, three heaps, you could see the smoke rising from the pyres. I remember that the Jews used to take this path to get water from the well. Because the fires went on for so long, maybe five or six months, people said there must have been 90-100 000 killed.
How did they burn them?
They took the bodies out of the mass graves and the stink was so strong that you could smell it in the houses. You couldn’t breathe, see. The bodies had been lying there for two or three years decomposing. They opened up the graves, took out the bodies and took them away on stretches to here.
Did you see them burning the bodies from your house?
It was awful. It was like smoke rising from hell. And the worse was the stink, when they opened the graves. We ran into the fields, to make something to eat, the smell in the house was unbearable.
Patrick Desbois They had a whole ceremony, the one who lit the fire had cow horns for devil’s horns. They had music, they had a whole ceremony. They had someone to count, a young lad of 14 who counted the bodies and wrote everything down in a notebook. They killed him so that he couldn’t tell the number. This is an extermination site and the site of operation 1005.
Patrick Desbois This is the first mass grave I discovered. It was a huge surprise, was sitting there and the witnesses arrived, they told me their story. I didn’t have a video or a camera. And just like that I discovered we could find out where the bodies were buried. And that is nowhere, as you can see. That the spot was unmarked. I discovered everything in that moment. It was the previous Mayor of the town who decided to protect the site, he arranged all that and the Star of David to show that this is a Jewish grave. That fact that Ukrainians are doing this means that there are people here who want to keep the memory alive. They want people to know where the Jews were killed and what became of the bodies. The Star of David is being seen again on Ukrainian soil. There’s not a single star of David on the ground in this whole region I think this will be the first in this region.
Shoah by Bullet The Forgotten History Based on an original idea on the research and contribution by Father Patrick Desbois Director Romain Icard Writer Roman Icard With the participation of Sophie Charnavel Camera Jean-Yves Cauchard Editing Sylvain Oizan-Chapon Original Music Teddy Lasry Yiddish Song Talila English narration Hoster Wilcox Sound recording Philippe Hug Translation Christophe Boutang /SUB-TIL Researcher Deborah Ford - CQF doc Mix Philippe Carrere Colour Grading Philippe Berge Post-production Plani Monteur Film Archives Yahad-in Unum US Holocaust Memorial Museum INA L’atelior des Archives/Nara La Caméra Stylo Photo credits USHMM Collection of Joshajahu Pery , from the Yaffa Elbach Collection donated by the Center for Holocaust Studies permission courtesy of the Museum of Jewish Heritage Hoover Institution Archives We wish to thank L’Association Yahad-in Unum Marco Gonzalez , Guillaume Ribot Patrice Benalmon Pierre-Philippe Proux Androj Urnasky Paul Shaprio , Suzanne Brown Fleming and the teem of USHMM The German War Archives of Ludwigsburg Edovard Husson and the Sorbonne University Elsa Le Peutros , Pascal Richard Executive Producer mano a mano Helene Chevereau Christian Le Peutrec With the participation of Centre National de la Cinematographic With the participation of France 3 © mano a mano - 2008