By Cathy Harasta
Representatives of the Diocese of Dallas will join the Dallas Holocaust Museum: Center for Education and Tolerance in honoring area Holocaust survivors and saluting the work of Father Patrick Desbois, a French Catholic priest and author of “The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews.”
The tributes will take place during the annual Hope for Humanity Dinner at the Fairmont Dallas on Oct. 30. The Diocese of Dallas is sponsoring a table at the event.
Father Desbois, who will receive the museum’s 2013 Hope for Humanity Award, interviewed thousands of witnesses and brought to light the largely unexamined tragedy of mass executions in Eastern Europe during the Holocaust.
Dallas Auxiliary Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel, the episcopal liaison for Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs for the diocese, said that Catholic teachings guide the faithful in grasping the importance of remembering history’s darkest interludes.
“It’s very important to have a Holocaust memorial to keep the memory alive in the light of what can happen if that sense of reverence for the human person is lost,” Bishop Deshotel said. “We have to be vigilant.”
The Dallas Holocaust Museum’s mission is the preservation of “the memory of the Holocaust, and to teaching the moral and ethical response to prejudice, hatred and indifference, for the benefit of all humanity.”
“We are grateful that the Catholic Diocese of Dallas has long been a supporter of our annual Hope for Humanity dinner,” said Mary Pat Higgins, the museum’s CEO and president. “This year, we are especially pleased to have the support of the diocese as we honor Father Patrick Desbois and our local Holocaust survivors. We honor Father Desbois for his tireless commitment to locating the mass grave sites of Jews and Roma, at the hands of the Nazis, and for interviewing the witnesses to the murders to bring proof of these atrocities to the world.”
Bishop Deshotel said that students visit the Dallas Holocaust Museum as part of their preparation for confirmation.
“Some deceased priests from the Diocese of Dallas had been prisoners in the concentration camps,” Bishop Deshotel said. “Devaluing the human person is a plague that sometimes raises its ugly head throughout our history—the slavery in Roman times and our nation’s experience of slavery. If you remove God from the picture, then you can start declaring groups of people not worthy of reverence as a human being.”
Father Desbois has documented the atrocities of Nazi mobile units that killed Jewish residents of what now are Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and other parts of the former Soviet Union.
His book details more than 800 mass killing sites where shootings occurred in the early 1940s. Father Desbois, a grandson of a French deportee to a labor camp in Ukraine, has an estimated four more years to complete interviews with the region’s remaining witnesses before they pass away, according to the Dallas Holocaust Museum.
Bishop Lynch High School history teacher Bruce Kirsch, a supporter of the Dallas Holocaust Museum who has studied the Holocaust in great depth and initiated a course on the subject at Bishop Lynch, said that his students appreciate the importance of standing up for justice.
“It’s important to study the Holocaust,” Kirsch said. “I try to get the students not to be bystanders. It plays right into a lot of the things that are important in Catholic education, such as social justice and service.”
The booklet “Catholic Teaching on the Shoah: Implementing the Holy See’s ‘We Remember,’ ” describes the Holocaust, in part, as “…Nazi Germany’s systematic and nearly successful attempt, from its foreshadowing on Kristallnacht in 1938 to its actual implementation from 1942 to 1945, to murder every Jewish woman, man, and child in Europe.”
The booklet reports that by the Holocaust’s end, two out of every three members of the ancient European Jewish community, or about 6 million people, were killed.
“It’s very important to honor the victims and survivors of the Holocaust for the sake of our children and future generations,” Bishop Deshotel said. “These are things that concern human beings of all religious faiths because the human person is created in the image and likeness of God.”
For information about the dinner, call 214-741-7500 or visit www.dallasholocaustmuseum.org.