Burial ceremony honors Warsaw Ghetto fighters

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warsaw | The remains of 11 people believed to be Jews killed in the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising against Nazi occupiers were buried Thursday, Sept. 2 in a ceremony hailed by Jewish leaders as a sign of the rekindled relationship between their community and other Poles.

The victims’ bones were laid in a simple pine coffin and lowered into the ground, along with bags containing the clothes and shoes of the men, women and children, in the capital’s Jewish cemetery. Members of Warsaw’s tiny Jewish community and Israeli Ambassador David Peleg then shoveled earth over the remains.

A second pine coffin, with the remains of about 10 other Holocaust victims recently discovered in a mass grave in a town outside Warsaw, was also buried.

“This is an important event in that it enables us to pay further respect to the victims of the Nazi terror,” said Warsaw’s main rabbi, Michael Schudrich, before the ceremony.

“It is also an example of Polish-Jewish cooperation — that our mutual experience of World War II is binding us more together as we build together toward the future.”

Some 6 million Jews were killed in the Nazi Holocaust, largely in German death camps operated on Polish soil. Almost all of pre-World War II Poland’s population of 3.5 million Jews was wiped out, and the community numbers only some 20,000 today.

The plight of the Jews was largely ignored in the postwar decades under communist rule, with the community only beginning to reassert itself after the return to democracy in 1989.

The remains were found several weeks ago during the renovation of a building that stood in Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto during the Nazi occupation of Poland, and also in a mass grave in the nearby town of Nadarzyn, Schudrich said.

The age of the bones and testimony from witnesses suggest they most likely were Holocaust victims, he said.

When the Germans moved to deport the 60,000 Jews who remained in the Warsaw Ghetto on April 19, 1943, which held some 450,000 Jews at its peak two years earlier, some fought back valiantly against overwhelming odds. They eventually succumbed and the Nazis razed the ghetto.