Forgotten mass graves of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe

In several countries of the former Soviet Union there are thousands of so far unmarked and often not localized mass graves of the Holocaust, which represent a largely unexplored chapter of the Holocaust.

An estimated two million Jews were shot under the German occupation in the Soviet Union by Einsatzgruppen, Wehrmacht and police units. Most anchored in the collective memory the massacre of Babi Yar, the jähren this year for the 70th time. Targeted mass shootings also found, however, instead of countless other places that are now mostly forgotten. These mass shootings affected not only Jews but also Roma and other victims groups. The bodies were buried on the spot, and are to this day in mostly unmarked mass graves on the outskirts of villages and towns, between woods and fields. Without structural protection the grave places of nature and desecrations are exposed. A worthy commemoration is under present conditions nor guarantees like the dead rest of the victims.


The Paris-based organization Yahad-In Unum, which is headed by the French Father Patrick Desbois has identified in recent years in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia with the help of eyewitnesses and archive studies of 400 shooting sites with more than 1,000 mass graves of the Holocaust. However, many hundred mass graves are still undiscovered. Face the urgent time to document the traces of decentralized carried out Nazi mass murder still using the previous witness has, Yahad-In Unum research activities thanks to the financial support from the federal government to step up recently.
In view of the closing time window due to the disappearance of the last witnesses of the murders, it is high time that the documentation and the structural protection of the mass graves of the Holocaust to forge ahead. It's also about the Jewish perspective central commandment of the Union, according to which the peace of the dead is to guarantee absolutely. Because "war is not over until the last victims were buried" - says Patrick Desbois, president of Yahad In Unum.

In January 2010, therefore, has teamed up an international coalition on the initiative of the American Jewish Committee, the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Volksbund German War Graves Commission in Berlin to the jointly for the protection and dignified design of these mass graves, and thus also for the preservation traces of mass murder for posterity use.

The Urgency of protective measures for grave spaces is highlighted by an initial screening on site, approximately in the place Prokhid where several mass graves by external circumstances the bones have come to the surface. A similar problem situation, there are also many other shooting sites.

The initiators are therefore grateful that the federal government has created a budget heading for the protection of mass graves in the year of 2010. This could be started in the past year a project financed by the Foreign Office pilot project based on the of Yahad collected in Unum data protection of mass graves in five selected pilot sites in western Ukraine to the destination has (including the execution site in Prokhid). The experience gained from this pilot project will be incorporated later as a "Best Practice" in measures to protect other mass graves in Eastern Europe.