The Simon Wiesenthal Center sent an official letter to the Belarus ambassador in Israel Vladimir Skvortsov on Tuesday calling on his country’s authorities to halt a building project in Brest after a mass grave with victims of the Holocaust was discovered there in February.
“We firmly believe that the mass murder sites of the Holocaust should not be tampered with,” wrote the Center’s director for Eastern European Affairs Dr. Efraim Zuroff, “and should remain the final resting places of the victims and places of commemoration, memory, and mourning.”
The grave was uncovered by chance in February on a construction site in a residential area in the center of Brest, Reuters reported.
Soldiers wearing white masks sifted through the site with spades, trowels and their gloved hands to collect the bones.
Press Secretary of the Belarus Embassy in Israel and Belarus Counsel Andrei Sadovski told the Jerusalem Post that until now 1,214 bodies were exhumed and the rescue excavation ended in the end of March.
The remains of the victims will be buried in a Jewish ceremony in a cemetery in Brest with the city budget covering the costs, he told the Post.
“The buildings will not be built on the site but next to it,” he said, “the actual site will be turned into a park with a commemoration sign explaining what happened there, it will not be turned into a parking space nor a playground.”
He added that after the remains were found the Brest authorities had been in constant communication with the Jewish community in Belarus.