PARIS: His subjects were mostly children and teenagers at the time, terrified witnesses to mass slaughter. Some were forced to work at the bottom rung of the Nazi Germany killing machine - as the diggers of mass graves, as cooks who fed Nazi soldiers, as seamstresses who mended clothes stripped from the Jews before execution.The witnesses live today in rural poverty, many without running water or heat, nearing the end of their lives. So Patrick Desbois has been quietly seeking them out, roaming the back roads and forgotten fields of Ukraine, hearing their stories and searching for the unmarked common graves. He knows that they are an unparalleled source to document the murder of 1.5 million Ukrainian Jews, shot dead and buried throughout Ukraine.
The Nazis began killing the Jews in Ukraine following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. But with few exceptions, most notably the 1941 slaughter of nearly 34,000 Jews in the Babi Yar ravine in Kiev, much of that history has gone untold.buried throughout Ukraine.
"Did the people know they were going to be killed?" Desbois asked her.
"How did they react?"
"They just walked, that's all. If someone couldn't walk, they told him to lie on the ground and shot him in the back of the neck.