The ZAKA organization will begin a search of portions of the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary to locate the remains of thousands of Jews, who were murdered during the Holocaust and were thrown there by Hungarian forces in 1944.
Interior Minister Arye Deri announced on Monday that the Hungarian government would provide resources to assist with the search.
Some 80,000 Jews were massacred on the banks of the river between October and December 1944 by Hungarian forces under the fascist government of the Arrow Cross Party, according to Yad Vashem.
ZAKA said that no systematic search for the remains of those killed in these massacres has ever been conducted.
Several years ago, relatives of the murdered began efforts to try and recover any remains, and approached ZAKA three years ago – which specializes in recovering Jewish remains from terrorist attacks, accidents and natural disasters – to undertake the task.
The organization began preliminary investigations into whether or not any remains could still be found, especially in light of the recovery of some remains that were found in 2011 during the renovation of the Margit Bridge. Those remains were later buried in a Jewish cemetery in Budapest in 2016.
For the last three years, ZAKA has been working towards conducting a meeting with Hungarian and international officials in order to obtain the requisite permits for the search.
The matter was raised by the chief rabbis when they met with Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban during his visit to Israel last year, while Hungarian Rabbi Shlomo Kovash assisted in coordinating between ZAKA and the government.
A team of ZAKA divers flew to Hungary on Sunday to begin preparations for the search, which is expected to begin this week, using sonar equipment and other means to look for the remains.
According to Deri’s office, Hungarian Interior Minister Sandor Pinter said that he would provide experts “advanced means” and that any remains found would be brought to Israel for burial.
Deri is currently in Hungary on an official visit. On Monday, he visited the Shoes on the Danube Bank memorial, where many of the Jewish victims were shot.
ZAKA Chairman Yehudah Meshi Zahav said that the mission would be “the last act of goodness that we can do for these martyrs who were killed in the sanctification of God’s name, and ZAKA sees this as a mission of the first order to do everything to bring them to burial in Israel.”
Deri said that he was “pleased that the Hungarian minister promised to give the assistance and the human and technological resources to this effort,” adding that ZAKA will “do this act of goodness for the martyrs and bring them to burial in Israel. May God avenge their blood.”
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