AJC Honors Father Patrick Desbois at Annual Meeting

AJC Honors Father Patrick Desbois at Annual Meeting

May 1, 2007 – Washington, D.C. – The American Jewish Committee honored Father Patrick Desbois tonight with its Jan Karski Award at the global advocacy organization's 101st Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

"Father Desbois's efforts to identify the mass graves of Jewish victims of the Shoah and ensure that these unnamed Holocaust victims are remembered, combined with his dedication to furthering understanding between Christians and Jews, are a testament to the human spirit and the power of good," said Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC's director of international Jewish affairs.

A central figure in Jewish-Catholic relations, Father Desbois heads the Commission for Relations with Judaism of the French Bishops Conference and serves as Consultant to the Vatican on Relations with Judaism.

Over the last decade, his "Operation Ukraine" program has been instrumental in identifying the mass graves of Eastern European Jews murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Once identified, the graves are permanently sealed, protected and properly marked. Since 1997, Desbois has identified 500 previously undocumented mass graves, primarily in Ukraine.

Father Desbois also has recorded the testimonies of local eyewitnesses to atrocities, including those at the Belzec death camp, providing invaluable information and artifacts to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Memorial de la Shoa in Paris, and the Belzec Museum and Memorial, a joint project of AJC and the Polish government.

"I do this work to combat a wave of Holocaust denial being used to deny the legitimacy of the Jewish people," said Desbois. "When the last of the Holocaust survivors passes away, Holocaust denial will become worse."

AJC's Jan Karski Award is named after the renowned Polish diplomat who played an instrumental role in Poland's anti-Nazi resistance movement during the Holocaust and in seeking to focus world attention on the Nazi Final Solution.

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