A Proper and Respectful Burial for Victims of the Holocaust – 80 Years Later

Julie Golding, doctoral fellow at the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, was the driving force in arranging for the proper and halachic [according to Jewish law] burial of the remains of Holocaust victims who had been killed in the Chelmno death camp nearly 80 years ago.

Hundreds of Jews, including Holocaust survivors and liberators, gathered at the Monsey Jewish Cemetery to honor and bury the remains, found during an inventory of the archival collections at the Holocaust Museum & Center for Tolerance and Education in Rockland County, New York, where Golding serves as museum curator. The remains, found in a small box, were at first thought to be dirt from the Chelmno camp yet were later discovered to be ashes and bone fragments of people killed at the camp. The remains were given to the museum more than a decade earlier as part of a larger donation of Holocaust artifacts by a survivor of the Lodz ghetto whose family was murdered in Chelmno.

While cremated remains are generally prohibited from being buried in a Jewish cemetery, halachic determination ruled that these remains of Jews, who were cremated against their will, should receive a proper Jewish burial.

Wrapped in burial shrouds and a tallis [prayer shawl], the remains were buried in a large plot of land donated by the Congregation Sons of Israel of Spring Valley, where a new Holocaust memorial is now being established. Rabbi Nosson Scherman, general editor of Artscroll-Mesorah Publications, spoke at the event. Kaddish [mourning prayer] was recited by Rabbi Moshe Gross and Rabbi Shmuel Gross, brothers who were child-survivors of Bergen Belsen, and Kel Maleh [prayer for the departed] was sung by Chazzan Asher Scharf. The rain that swept through the area that day did not deter those in attendance, who came from across New York and New Jersey.

Burial of the ashes, with people gathered around the cenotaph.
Rabbi Nosson Scherman, general editor of Artscroll-Mesorah Publications, giving the eulogy

“The burial was a unique opportunity for the community to come together with the singular goal of paying final respects to Holocaust victims nearly 80 years after their deaths,” said Golding. “It was a powerful moment of connecting the past to the present while focusing on how we will continue to remember and tell this story in the future.”