Jewish leaders ask that bones found at Stuttgart be reburied
ECHTERDINGEN, Germany — The bodies of 34 Holocaust victims found in September at Stuttgart Army Airfield will be reburied there at the urging of Jewish leaders, according to German authorities.
Ulrich Goll, justice minister of the German state of Baden-Württemberg, said that no further testing would be done on the remains, which were removed from shallow graves at the airfield and transported to Robert Bosch Hospital in Stuttgart.
Goll said in a statement that while his department is required to conduct a criminal investigation on the discovery, requests from Jewish leaders to have the remains reburied at the site outweighed the likelihood of finding a living perpetrator.
“There is little chance to fully solve the crimes in question due to the amount of time having passed,” Goll said. “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.
Prosecutors also had originally wanted to obtain DNA from the bodies in an effort to identify them by comparing the DNA with possible descendents. But Jewish leaders were unhappy that the bodies were removed from their original resting place, and, in accordance with Jewish law, demanded their reburial.
An official with a local synagogue said arrangements are being made for reburial at the airfield.
U.S. military officials were unable to confirm Tuesday whether they had given permission to allow the bones to be reburied at the airfield.
The remains were discovered Sept. 19-20 after contractors unearthed the first of the 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. German police said at the time there was evidence some had been buried alive by the positions of their bodies.
The airfield is used by the U.S. military for transporting troops, cargo and VIPs. The Stuttgart military community mail depository is also located there, as is a German police helicopter unit. It is adjacent to the Stuttgart international airport south of the city.
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.
Stefan Wirz, a spokesman for the Baden- Württemberg justice department, said the only tests performed so far on the bones were to determine when they had been buried, which was sometime between 1905-1955, further confirming that the victims were from the Holocaust.
According to Eve Warsher, who is in charge of burials for the Stuttgart New Synagogue, 35 coffins were being made completely from wood in accordance with Jewish law. The additional coffin would be for additional bones found at the site that did not belong to the 34 full sets of remains.
Warsher said no date has been set for the reburial, though she doubted it would be this month. Decisions had not yet been made on grave markers or fencing, she said.