Six Holocaust victims laid to rest in UK funeral

"A tiny coffin has enough space for you all. You were stripped of all dignity in life and in death," said UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis in eulogy.

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January 20, 2019 14:38
2 minute read.
HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS accompany a coffin containing the remains of six Holocaust victims to its burial

HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS accompany a coffin containing the remains of six Holocaust victims to its burial on Sunday in Bushey, UK. (photo credit: screenshot)

 
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The remains of six Holocaust victims – five adults and one child – were buried at a Jewish cemetery north of London on Sunday, 74 years after the end of World War II.

UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis presided over the ceremony at the Bushey Jewish Cemetery in the presence of hundreds of members of the Jewish community, including many Holocaust survivors.

“We don’t know your names but God knows your name,” Mirvis said in his eulogy, which was streamed live online by the United Synagogue union of British Orthodox Jewish synagogues. “For so many Holocaust victims, no Kaddish has ever been said for them.

No Yizkor has ever been recited for them. Because their entire families were wiped out,” Mirvis said, referencing two traditional Jewish memorial prayers.

The chief rabbi said many people wondered what they would encounter at this unusual funeral, and if there would be six separate coffins.

“You were reduced to ashes and a few bone fragments,” Mirvis said. “And a tiny coffin has enough space for you all. You were stripped of all dignity in life and in death. But we have been given the privilege to show you dignity at your funeral here today.”

The funeral was attended by Israeli Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev; UK Housing and Communities Secretary James Brokenshire; Sir Eric Pickles, the UK’s special envoy for Holocaust issues; and Lord Lieutenant Robert Voss, the official representative of the Queen.


Mirvis called on everyone present at the funeral and all who were watching it from afar to take away one simple message: “All of us within our societies,” he said, “have a responsibility to spread love and not hate, to confront antisemitism, to rid it from our world, to confront all forms of racism and discrimination, and to appreciate and to cherish the divinity of almighty God within every soul on earth.”

Following the eulogy, the coffin containing the remains of the six victims was accompanied to the burial site by Holocaust survivors and hundreds of others. At the burial site, the coffin was lowered into the ground and covered with dirt by dozens of the mourners. Mirvis then recited the El Male Rachamim prayer for the souls of the departed. Kaddish was then recited by Mirvis and many of those present.

The remains of the six individuals were turned over to the British chief rabbi by the UK’s Imperial War Museum earlier this month. The museum had held the remains since 1997, but felt uncomfortable continuing to keep them, and expressed gratitude to Mirvis for handling the transfer and burial.

In 2005, the museum had the remains tested, and established that they contained human bone fragments as well as ash and construction material from cremation ovens. The remains were donated to the museum together with items that have been confirmed as originating at the Auschwitz death camp.

Sunday’s ceremony is believed to be the first public funeral held in the United Kingdom for Holocaust victims.

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