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Behavior of Witnesses in “Holocaust by Bullets” by Desbois

Desbois’ work in the book Holocaust by Bullets documents in detail the experience of witnesses to the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis. He argues that the German mass killings on the Jews lead to losses of many innocent lives and generated deep trauma across villages in Ukraine as seen in many of the interviews with the witnesses. The argument is a strong one as actions of the Nazis being narrated by the witnesses show how adversely they mistreated their victims and how much it affected the locals. The argument is also hard to analyze since there is no positivity in the ways of the Germans that can justify their action and why they took such cruel measures. Father Patrick’s argument is proved to be powerful following the evidence provided by the witnesses.

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As long as Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union the, information about the killing of Jews was a forbidden topic as established by Father Desbois. In this regard, many witness were open to narrating the occurrences of the Holocaust. The witnesses told narratives of how the Nazis killed the Jews in cold blood, how they were buried, and the locals were forced into handling corpses. The Jews were brutally killed on the streets in front of the houses of the Ukrainians. The witnesses said the oppressed were buried alive, and any closed space was used as a temporary prison where the Jews were left to die of either suffocation or starving. Anna Dychkant from Lviv recounts having seen a boy from her school shouting while he was being dragged behind a neighbor’s house to be killed (Desbois & Shapiro, 2008, p. 125). Giving such vivid details of the assassination, the witnesses’ behavior suggests that they were willing to unburden themselves and help the writer understand the evil that had occurred right in their faces.

Some of the witnesses took Desbois to actual sites of the killing and burial to prove that the Nazis were not at any cost humane in their treatment of the Jewish people. They try to show the writer that even though the streets do not hold the innocent blood of the murdered anymore, the sites where they were buried act as a constant reminder that torment the inhabitants of those grounds. He accounts that one of the male villagers led him to the edge of an expansive lawn and declared the area to be the actual execution site and that he watched from twenty meters away as the killing took place (Desbois, 2008, p. 65). The witnesses wanted the writer to believe that whatever they were narrating was real, and thus they were willing to help understand the impact of the assassination on their lives.

By giving their personal experiences of what had transpired during the Nazi execution, the witnesses went a notch higher into helping the writer understand how much the things they had seen and heard were stuck in their memories. It is said that the hardest thing to do is relieve one’s experience of a traumatic incident that had occurred in their past. One witness, Samuel Arabski, reports of how he was requisitioned to fill a pit and that in the process, a hand came out of the ground and caught his spade, causing him to faint (Desbois, 2008, p. 74). Hence by telling the writer their personal experience of the occurrence, the witnesses portrayed a behavior that can be described as assistive.

Finally, the witnesses described the brutal nature by which the Germans killed the Jews and some of the Ukrainians. They told the writer about how they were forced to watch their neighbors, schoolmates, friends, and business associates being murdered and, worse still, compelled to help the murders in their task. A witness, Hanna Senikova, relays to Father Patrick how the killers made the mothers who had children carry them below their chest so that the bullet could take both of them at the same instance (Desbois & Shapiro, 2008, p. 92). The Germans did not consider the innocence of some of their victims and were ruthless in their actions of how they treated the Jewish people.

Some of the witnesses tried to prevent the writer from conducting his research as they tried to hide the fact that they knew what had conspired. They were not so welcoming to the idea of Patrick visiting sites that were on their property. They only watched the interviewing from a distance and did not take part in proving their knowledge of what had occurred during the Jewish assassination. The writer says that while at one of the execution sites, the owner of several neighboring houses protested and asked him to leave their gardens alone, confirming that everyone knew yet was keeping to themselves (Desbois & Shapiro, 2008, p. 65). This affirmed that some were not willing to speak of their knowledge of what had happened as they did not want to relive the trauma they were going through.

In conclusion, the evidence provided by the tales of the witnesses showed that the Nazis were inhumane in every aspect of their actions and that it affected the locals livelihood. Desbois’ findings affirm his argument that the Jews were brutally mutilated for their religion and that it cost the local Ukrainians a fortune. Being that there is no single scenario that proves the Germans actions were justified renders the writer’s argument subtle.

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Desbois, P., & Shapiro, P. (2008). The Holocaust by bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews.(1st ed.). Palgrave Macmillan.

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