Holocaust victims to be reburied at Stuttgart ceremony
STUTTGART, Germany — The bodies of Holocaust victims unearthed in September at Stuttgart Army Airfield will be reburied there on Dec. 15, a local Jewish leader said.
Rabbi Netanel Wurmser of the New Synagogue in Stuttgart said the decision to rebury the 34 bodies came after negotiations between German, U.S. and Jewish authorities. The airfield is part of Army Garrison Stuttgart.
“It was complicated,” Wurmser said. “It’s German ground and a U.S. air base. There were many departments of the government and communities and local authorities and Americans involved in that.”
Invitations have been sent for the ceremony, Wurmser said, adding that he did not yet know who would participate.
The ceremony would include a traditional Jewish funeral, Wurmser said. In accordance with Jewish law, grave markers would be placed only after a year had passed.
The remains were discovered Sept. 19-20 after contractors unearthed bones while excavating for a drainage project just inside the airfield’s main security gate.
The bones were in shallow graves, laid side by side in three areas close together. The bones were transported to Robert Bosch Hospital in Stuttgart, where they have remained.
The airfield is located in Echterdingen and is adjacent to the Stuttgart international airport, just south of the city. It is used by the U.S. military for transporting troops, cargo and VIPs. The Stutt- gart military community mail depository is also there, as is a German police helicopter unit.
German prosecutors originally wanted to treat the discovery as a mass murder and examine the remains for evidence. There was also discussion of extracting DNA to use for identifying the victims if any possible descendants came forward.
But Jewish leaders persuaded the German authorities to forego further examination of the remains because it conflicted with the Jewish tradition to let the dead rest in peace.
“There is little chance to fully solve the crimes in question due to the amount of time having passed,” Ulrich Goll, justice minister of the German state of Baden-Württemberg, said last month. “In view of this aspect I have come to the conclusion that forensic identification measures can be forgone at this time.”
Goll added that care would be taken during the reburial to enable, if necessary, both the identification of a body through DNA and the prosecution of a still-living perpetrator.
U.S. military officials in Stuttgart, headquarters for the U.S. European Command, had declined to comment throughout the process, preferring to let German authorities take the lead in sorting out a solution.
“Since the discovery of the remains at Stuttgart Army Airfield, U.S. European Command and Stuttgart Army Garrison have fully supported the German authorities,” Graham said in an e-mailed response to Stars and Stripes.
“This is an important and sensitive matter and we have done and will continue to do whatever we can to provide everything necessary to assist them and bring the matter to closure with the re-burial on the 15th.”
During World War II, the Echterdingen camp, a satellite of the concentration camp Natzweiler/Elsass, from November 1944 until February 1945, was used for forced labor, such as cleaning up the rubble after Allied airstrikes.