‘We are here as the family for a person we don’t know,’ Poland Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich said as the bones, wrapped in white cloth, were laid to rest.
WARSAW, Poland — Warsaw’s Jewish community has buried an unidentified Holocaust victim whose remains were discovered this summer in a building that was within the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.
“We are here as the family for a person we don’t know,” Poland Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich said as the bones, wrapped in white cloth, lay on a wooden cart and community members gathered.
Four men pulled the cart to the grave, where the bones were buried with soil from Israel, and Jewish leaders recited Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead.
The ceremony took place in Warsaw’s Jewish Cemetery, one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe in a city that was a leading center of Jewish life until the Holocaust.
Leslaw Piszewski, chairman of the Jewish Community in Warsaw, said the burial was all the more emotional coming on the eve of Yom Kippur, the most sacred day in the Jewish calendar.
“After nearly 80 years, this unknown person got his dignity back,” Piszewski said. “This is very important. This is the only thing that we can do for the unknown victim.”
The remains were discovered due to a water break in a building in Muranow, a Warsaw district that was largely Jewish before the war and was the site of the Warsaw Ghetto during the German wartime occupation of Poland.
Marek Slusarz, who lives and runs a community foundation in the building, discovered the human bones when he was searching in the basement for the source of a water break. When he and a plumber found them, he alerted the police and the Jewish community.
It’s believed that the remains were those of a Jewish resident who was in hiding when German forces crushed the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 by razing the area to the ground.
After the war, the area was rebuilt on top of the wartime rubble.
Slusarz said it was a source of satisfaction to have a role in the victim receiving a dignified burial. Though he isn’t Jewish, he said he hoped such events would inspire younger generations in Poland to preserve the memory of the centuries of Jewish and non-Jewish co-existence in Poland.
A representative from the Israeli embassy laid a wreath at the ceremony, and Wojciech Kolarski, secretary of state under President Andrzej Duda, also paid his respects at the funeral.