Mazsihisz, the federation of Jewish communities in Hungary, has asked the Hungarian and Israeli governments to drop joint efforts to recover the remains of victims that were shot into the River Danube in central Budapest during the Holocaust. Mazsihisz said that the search was “pointless” while plans to take the recovered remains to Israel were “disturbing” for the Jewish community.
Reuters reported on Monday that an Israeli team of forensic experts had arrived in Hungary to search the Danube for remains of Holocaust victims, with Hungarian permission and assistance. A member of the delegation said the remains would be buried in accordance with Jewish rites.
In its statement, Mazsihisz noted that thousands of people had been shot into the river during the Holocaust, while the bodies of many other people that died during the siege of Budapest during the second world war may be resting in the river. “Their bones have probably been scattered during the past 75 years, and the river may have washed some of them away as far as the Black Sea,” the website said, adding therefore that the goal of the project was questionable. “Disturbing the resting site of the dead is a complicated and sensitive issue; searching for the bones that could be recovered is pointless. It would disturb the peace of the dead, whether Jewish or not, and would also violate the halakha [Jewish religious laws],” Mazsihisz said.
According to Israel’s Yad Vashem Memorial Center, some 565,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust. The majority of them were deported to the Auschwitz death camp between May and July 1944. In October of that year, thousands of Jews were shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen. A memorial known as “Shoes on the Danube Bank” was erected in their honour in April 2005.