LONDON — The remains of six unidentified Holocaust victims were buried Sunday at a Jewish cemetery, after spending years in storage at a British museum.
The Imperial War Museum found the ashes and bone fragments during a stock-taking last year. They had been given to the museum, along with other items from the Auschwitz concentration camp, by an anonymous donor in 1997.
Tests determined the remains belonged to five adults and a child. Hundreds of mourners watched as they were buried Sunday at a cemetery outside London, in a coffin with earth from Israel.
UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who delivered a eulogy, said the victims “were stripped of their dignity, both in life and in death. And we will now have an opportunity to accord them appropriate dignity with a funeral.”
“We remember you every day of our lives. You give us constant inspiration. You represent more than one million other children who were murdered. We have been given the privilege to show you dignity here at your funeral,” he added, according to the Jewish News.
The Chief Rabbi reciting the “El Malei Rachamim”, the mourner’s prayer, and Kaddish, by the grave at today’s burial ceremony for the remains of six Holocaust victims pic.twitter.com/7DQhGzLxQ6
— Daniel Sugarman (@Daniel_Sugarman) January 20, 2019
Some 1,200 mourners were on hand for the burial, including 50 Holocaust survivors and Israeli Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev.
Mirvis added: “Here today is the ambassador of Israel. When you went to your death you wouldn’t have believed such a post could exist – the ambassador of the Jewish state. When you were sent to your death there was no light at the end of your suffering. Yet only three years after the Holocaust, the State of Israel was born.”
The Jewish News reported the burial was the first public funeral for Holocaust victims to ever be held in the UK. A memorial garden is to be built on the site.
One million Jews were killed by the Nazis at Auschwitz-Birkenau between 1940 and 1945, a sixth of the total number of Jews murdered by Nazi Germany in the Holocaust.
Prince Charles sent a personal letter ahead of the funeral, in which he wrote: “As patron of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, I just wanted to write and say how moved I was to hear about the arrangements being made to provide dignified and final rest to six victims of the Holocaust.”
He offered his “most heartfelt condolences” to the Jewish community.
Conservative MP James Brokenshire, who serves as communities secretary, said the funeral was a reminder of the need to combat discrimination.
“We must continue to challenge racism, anti-Semitism and bigotry and where hatred can lead. That’s why this has been such a unique occasion to be able to give some dignity, some respect, some acknowledgement to those six souls who lost their lives in the Holocaust,” the Jewish News quoted him as saying.
“I hope it will bring people together and underline that message of never again, never forget, and that none of us can simply stand by the side and allow this to happen.”