The post below is signed by Emmanuel Cortey, Deputy Director of Yahad- In Unum, who is accompanying the research trip to Lithuania.
Translation from French: Yelena Moskovich
Wednesday, July 8th, 2015
“A race against time.” This image keeps coming back to describe the work of Yahad -In Unum. It is more than mere words. It inhabits the daily efforts of each of my colleagues in Paris, Brussels, or New York. However, it has never been more noticable, more evident than during a research trip.
I arrive in Lithuania to join a team who has been investigating for nearly two weeks. Along the road that goes from Vilnius to Panevezys thick forest walls alternate with fields opening towards the horizon. Looking out of the car window, I think with apprehension and with hope about this race against time. With hope especially, because every day of work for a Yahad team in the field is a victory against forgetting. Every single day, testimony after testimony, strengthens the defense against negationism and sends a signal to all future perpetrators of mass crimes.
The team has not yet returned when I arrive at the hotel in the evening. The days are long. Michal, the team leader, explains that the testimonies are very rich and often last more than three hours.
We meet for dinner at 9pm. After this many days of intense research and harrowing testimonies, it is striking to see just how united the team remains. For some of them this is the first research trip, for others, like Andrej, who have more experience, this is one of many they have done in several countries.
Arūnas is investigating for the first time with Yahad. He tells me that he knew the history “on paper,” but to meet witnesses face-to-face has completely changed his vision of the genocide. Right then, I couldn’t help but remember my first time hearing a witness speak. I could feel as she spoke within her eyes and her hands and even her moments of silence that it was as if the Holocaust happened only yesterday. Within these moments, we find the strength to continue this effort so that this never happens again.