WARSAW, Poland (AP) – The Jewish community in Warsaw buried an unidentified Holocaust victim whose remains were discovered this summer in a building that stood in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II on Tuesday.
“We are here as a family for someone we don’t know,” Poland Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich said as the bones, wrapped in white cloth, rested on a wooden cart and the limbs of the community gathered.
Four men pulled the cart to the grave, where the bones were buried along with the land of Israel, and the Jewish leaders recited the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead.
The ceremony took place at the Warsaw Jewish Cemetery, one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe in a city that was a prominent center of Jewish life until the Holocaust.
Leslaw Piszewski, president of the Jewish community in Warsaw, said the funeral was a very emotional event for him, especially on the eve of Yom Kippur, one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar.
“After nearly 80 years, this stranger has regained his dignity,” said Piszewski. “It’s very important. It’s the only thing we can do for the unknown victim.
The remains were discovered due to a water break in a building in Muranow, a district of Warsaw that was largely Jewish before the war and was the site of the Warsaw Ghetto during the German occupation of Poland during the war.
Marek Slusarz, a man who lives and runs a non-profit community foundation in the building, discovered the human bones while searching the basement for the source of a water cut. When he and a plumber found them, he alerted the police and the Jewish community.
The remains are believed to belong to a Jew who was in hiding when German forces crushed the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 by razing the area.
The area was rebuilt after the war from the rubble of the war.
Slusarz said that despite the tragedy, it was a source of satisfaction for him to have a role in the victim receiving a dignified burial. Not a Jew himself, he said he hoped such events would inspire the younger generations in Poland to preserve the memory of centuries of Jewish and non-Jewish coexistence in Poland.
A representative of the Israeli Embassy laid a wreath and Wojciech Kolarski, Secretary of State in President Andrzej Duda’s office, also paid tribute at the funeral.
This story has been corrected to show that the Jewish leader’s first name is Leslaw, not Leszlaw, and his title is President of the Warsaw Jewish Community, not President of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland.