We Swore That We’d “Never Forget” — Now There’s an Event to Remember

Forty-one percent of Americans haven’t heard of Auschwitz. Twenty-two percent of millennials haven’t heard of the Holocaust.[1] Survivors and eyewitnesses are dying out. Anti-Semitism is alive and well, and acts of mass violence are on the rise.[2]

For decades after the Holocaust, the world swore that it would “Never Forget.” Now there’s a Roman Catholic Priest fighting to keep us all honest.

In 2004, Father Patrick Desbois founded Yahad — In Unum, an organization dedicated to investigating, documenting, and teaching the history of the Holocaust. For Desbois, remembrance isn’t only about retelling the stories that we know; it’s also about recovering the stories that we’ve lost — or that have been forcibly erased.

The Nazis were notorious for their extraordinary record keeping. They kept files on individual prisoners — ledgers of names, identification numbers, cities of origin, and modes of execution. Many of those records are held at the Aroslen Archives in Germany, where it is said that if the documents were arranged in a single-file line, that line would stretch sixteen miles long.[3],[4],[5] And yet these extraordinary, numerous, detailed records account for fewer than half of the Holocaust’s victims. Father Desbois has spent the last fifteen years investigating where the other victims were killed — and how.

In that time, Desbois has made nearly 170 research trips to nine countries. He has identified 2,700 execution sites, many of which were previously undocumented and unmarked. In towns and villages across Eastern Europe, he has met with and collected testimony from 6,700 eyewitnesses, many of whom had never previously spoken about what they saw, or, in some case, what they did — how they personally participated in the systematic extermination of European Jewry.

At the heart of Father Desbois’s work is the belief that remembering the Holocaust isn’t enough. To remember the Holocaust is to remember a single, monstrous crime — the mass murder of six million Jews. That traditional, statistical approach to commemoration anonymizes the victims, stripping them of their identities — just as the Nazis intended. Desbois insists that we must instead remember every individual killing — each its own, unique atrocity. We must remember the victims as individual people and remember their executions as individual crimes. We must investigate every individual murder, discover every individual grave, and share every individual story. Only then can we truly understand, remember, and learn.

In the years since its founding, Yahad — In Unum’s mission has expanded to encompass not only investigation and documentation but also education. The Holocaust represents one of the most profound articulations of baseless hatred and one of the most mammoth acts of mass violence in human history. By investigating and publicizing how it happened, Desbois intends to slow the march of intolerance and prevent future acts of mass murder. To him, the past, present, and future are inextricably linked. With “Never Forget” comes the corollary: “Never Again.”

On October 29th, Father Desbois will visit New York City and tell the story of how a Roman Catholic priest became one of the world’s most influential advocates for Holocaust research and education. He will speak about the mysteries that motivate his team, the discoveries that astound them, and the work that has yet to be done — work that will commemorate the past and safeguard the future.

For decades after the Holocaust, the world swore that it would never forget. We are responsible for making good on that promise.

So whether you’re in New York or you aren’t, block off the evening of October 29. Take that time to help the cause — perhaps by spreading the word, perhaps by contributing resources, or perhaps simply by listening. Simply by remembering.

Every life deserves to be remembered. And every one of us can help.

Father Desbois will speak on October 29, 2019, from 4:30 to 6:30pm at the Hunt & Fish Club: 125 W. 44th Street, New York, NY. Hors d’oeuvres and cocktails will be served. Contributions to the continued work of Yahad — In Unum will be welcome.

If you would like to attend the event, an RSVP is recommended. Please email ewaschaller@gmail.com.

The event is sponsored by Nelson Braff of the Hunt and Fish Club.

For media inquiries, please contact Terri Kayden at tkayden@jconnelly.com and Jason Grimley at jasongrimley@spellcom.com.

To learn more about the work of Father Desbois and Yahad — In Unum, please consider visiting the Yahad — In Unum’s website, or watch the CBS “60 Minutes” segment featuring Father Desbois and his team.

To support the work of Father Desbois and Yahad — In Unum, you may consider making a donation here.

[1] http://www.claimscon.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Holocaust-Knowledge-Awareness-Study_Executive-Summary-2018.pdf

[2] https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/10/mass-shootings-increasing-harvard-research/#

[3] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/revisiting-the-horrors-of-the-holocaust/

[4] https://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-holocaust-documents-20190521-story.html

[5] https://www.thoughtco.com/nazi-files-revealed-after-60-years-2076562

New York Times bestselling author, Michael has written, planned or edited more than 700 business books, business fables, and memoirs over the past 25 years.