Jewish groups debate fate of possible remains of Holocaust victims
STUTTGART, Germany — Jewish leaders were in apparent disagreement Friday over the fate of 34 sets of human remains believed to be Holocaust victims that were found this week at the U.S.-owned Stuttgart Army Airfield.
Meanwhile, German police and prosecutors — who are treating the discovery as a mass murder — were continuing to supervise DNA tests at a local hospital. The tests were being done to try to match the DNA of the remains with living relatives in order to establish identities.
“It is not so easy,” said Horst Haug, a spokesman for the Baden-Württemberg state police. “We do not know if they are really Jewish, but for religious reasons we have to be especially careful. We have been in contact with the [Stuttgart rabbi Netanel Wurmser].
“They will be buried at a special place, a cemetery. It is all so new, this case. We are especially occupied with digging right now.”
Haug said that no new remains had been discovered other than the 34 found Monday and Tuesday.
Two Jewish groups, one based in London and the other in Brussels, Belgium, disagreed over what to do with the remains.
The London group, called the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe, has requested that a decision be withheld until its experts could travel to Stuttgart to examine the condition of the mass grave, located just inside the main security gate at the airfield.
“We are very cautious,” said Abraham Ginsberg, the London group’s executive director. “There are certain [Jewish] laws for when a grave is opened or for one reason or another [a body] has been exhumed.
“We are not jumping to conclusions.”
But rabbis at the Brussels-based Rabbinical Center of Europe have decided that the 60-year-old remains should be returned to the site and are going to inquire about establishing a Jewish Cemetery at the site.
“According to Jewish law, the bodies are not allowed to be transferred from one place to another,” said Rabbi Levi Matusof, coordinator of the Brussels group. “Since this is already a burial place, this is their everlasting resting place.”
Members of the 6th Area Support Group, which oversees the airfield property, were under orders not to talk about the matter.
“Right now our primary commitment is to provide whatever support and assistance we can to the German authorities who are investigating this matter,” said Jennifer Sanders, a 6th ASG spokeswoman.
“We believe the most appropriate course of action is to allow our host-nation colleagues who are conducting the investigation to be the public voice on this sensitive issue.”
Officials at the Stuttgart-based U.S. European Command’s headquarters declined to comment on the issue.