After 70 years during which the bones of Jews murdered by Nazis were scattered on the site of the Sobibor death camp, the Israeli NGO From the Depths has arranged for them to be buried according to Jewish law, in a high-profile ceremony to take place next month.
Jonny Daniels, a political consultant and founder and executive director of From The Depths, an organization working to preserve Jewish sites in Poland, recounted to The Jerusalem Post the horror he felt visiting Sobibor, when his guide told him that the small white “rocks” on the ground were, in fact, pieces of human bone.
Some 250,000 Jews were murdered at Sobibor, but on October 14, 1943, about 600 prisoners revolted and briefly escaped. Between 100 and 120 prisoners survived the revolt, and 60 of those survived the war. After the camp uprising, the Nazis bulldozed the area and planted it over with pine trees to conceal their crimes.
Over the years, however, the shallow mass graves on the site became exposed and the bones could be seen by visitors.
“According to Jewish tradition, a person’s soul cannot rest if his or her bones are not buried,” Daniels explained.
“The bones have been sitting there for seven decades. We owe it to those who were lost to properly memorialize them and take care of this.”
From the Depths will bring representatives of the Chief Rabbinate, ZAKA rescue and recovery organization volunteers, and forensic experts from Israel to collect the bones for a Jewish burial on October 22. The organization plans to invite Holocaust survivors, the chief rabbis of Israel and Poland, Israeli ministers, MKs, and lawmakers from around the world, with an emphasis on Europe, to the event.
The burial will be followed by a memorial ceremony in the nearby town of Wlodawa, which has a well-preserved synagogue, built in 1764.
In January, From the Depths organized the largest-ever delegation abroad of MKs, in which 60 lawmakers, several ministers, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira, Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, and others attended a ceremony in Auschwitz-Birkenau on the 69th anniversary of the camp’s liberation.
Now, Daniels hopes to bring the second-largest-ever group of MKs abroad, and is asking each one to bring a young person to learn from the experience.
As for the European MPs attending, Daniels said he hopes their presence will help curb the rise of anti-Semitism on the continent.
“They need to understand that the incidents happening now can lead to this,” he stated, referring to the Holocaust.
“That’s a strong statement, but I believe it. Europe is a scary place for Jews today.”
The trip is being privately funded by donors whose names From the Depths would not reveal, saying only that there are Jewish and Christian sponsors.
The NGO is not organizing the trip in cooperation with the Knesset as it did in January, when some criticized the government for spending on a ceremony as opposed to using the money to help Holocaust survivors.
“Both topics are important – it doesn’t have to be one or the other,” Daniel said. “The government should invest in Holocaust survivors’ welfare and avoid a situation in which they are living in distress. At the same time, we have a moral imperative to continue teaching the lessons of the Holocaust to future generations through projects like these, in a time when we are losing survivors.”
“Our mission is to make sure the world never forgets the Holocaust,” he added.