French Priest Uncovers Holocaust's Beginning

Before gas chambers, Nazis used bullets, fire to kill Jews
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 1, 2009 2:19 PM CST
French priest Patrick Desbois, front, and members of his team walk to what used to be a well where many Jews were thrown dead or still alive, in Bogdanivka, Ukraine, July 16, 2007.   (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)
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(Newser) – Before the Nazis started shipping Jews to gas chambers, they marched across Eastern Europe, shooting more than 2 million above the mass graves they'd been forced to dig, or burning whole communities in bonfires. In an oft-forgotten and horrifying look at the Holocaust's beginnings, French priest Patrick Desbois traveled Eastern Europe, reports the AP, gathering evidence and witnesses' guilt-wracked accounts into a book, The Holocaust By Bullets.

The priest first saw a mass grave site while on a visit to Ukraine, and quickly expanded his travels to visit execution sites in Belarus and Russia. Many of his interviewees had never spoken about the events of the war, and some told Desbois of being forced to help German soldiers loot bodies or trample schoolmates to make more room in graves.