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(photo credit: Courtesy Rabbinical Centre of Europe )
Romanian medical students have been using the skeletons of Holocaust victims buried in a mass grave for research, according to an American Jew now living in Iasi, a city situated in north-eastern Romania.
After speaking to Romanian medical students, the American, who wishes to remain anonymous, sent an email to the Department of Burials and Cemeteries in the Rabbinical Center of Europe (RCE), detailing the story of the Jewish cemetery desecration.
Summarizing his conversation with the Romanian medical students, the American wrote in his email, "If you live in Iasi, you simply go to the town of Podu Iloaiei and ask the workers at the cemetery for a skeleton. The workers dig up the remains, scrape the dried flesh from the bones and 'clean them up nicely' for about $40 US."
The email frighteningly continued, "When I asked if this was considered desecration, I was told 'No, they only dig up the Jews from the mass Graves'."
Due to a large pogrom in Isai, on June 30th, 1941, two death trains left the city. One of these trains stopped in the Podu Iloaiei and the 1,194 Jews who died from thirst and heat exhaustion were buried there in a mass grave.
The allegations from the American's email have triggered a slew of investigations from different Jewish organizations into the matter. However, no one has been able confirm the claim.
"We know the story. The Issue is no one can confirm the story," said Marco Katz, national director and founder of the Center for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism in Romania.
However, katz asserted, "Everything is possible. I know that the control is not tight. Desecration of cemeteries is not unusual in Romania."
The Jewish cemeteries that are outside of Bucharest are not maintained because there are very little Jews in those areas, according to Katz.
RCE representatives recruited Jewish medical students from the GT Popa medical school in Iasi to look further into the matter. The recruits confirmed that there were notices that circulated around the university advertising the sale of human bones. However, they could not discover who the source of these advertisements was.
On June 2, The RCE sent two Jewish university students, posing as Romanian medical students, to the supposed cemetery where Jewish skeletons were being exhumed.
The two undercover students spoke to the female caretaker of the mass grave about purchasing bones. In the subsequent discussion, which was recorded and filed in the RCE offices, the caretaker never denied the American's allegations, but continued to refer the students to her husband.
One of the undercover students, who wished to remain anonymous "for fear of retaliation from the students and university staff," spoke to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday about his trip to the cemetery,
"I went to buy one but the women at the graveyard wouldn't give it to meâ€¦I guess other students go to other graveyards," he said.
The anonymous student believes that some of the bodies are from Jewish graves and some are from non-Jewish graves. "I don't think it is connected to anti-Semitism," he said.
He added that the use of actual skeletons in Romania, as opposed to plastic ones that are generally used, is an accepted practice, for their benefit in practical work.
Rabbi Aryeh Goldberg, Deputy Director of the RCE, had alarming words to say on the Jewish grave robbing claims.
"We were stunned to learn of these allegations. We immediately set out to investigate before taking matters further. The results have left us deeply concerned and we will be aggressively pursuing this matter further. No human remains deserve to be used in such experimental manner. The memory of those who perished deserves to be preserved in a proper and dignified manner and we will make it our business to ensure that is the case."
The RCE will be speaking to the Romanian ambassador to the EU in the next couple of days about cemetery desecration allegations.