Jewish community obtains halt to exhumations
30 September 2005, STUTTGART, GERMANY - Construction work at an airport in Germany was halted Friday after Jewish leaders protested against removal of what are believed to be the remains of Holocaust victims from a makeshift mass grave discovered at the site.
30 September 2005
STUTTGART, GERMANY - Construction work at an airport in Germany was halted Friday after Jewish leaders protested against removal of what are believed to be the remains of Holocaust victims from a makeshift mass grave discovered at the site.
The skeletal remains of about 30 individuals were discovered September 20 by workers during excavation work at Stuttgart airport.
The discovery was made at a section of the airport that had been used by the Gestapo when the site was a Luftwaffe air strip during World War II.
Jewish inmates from a sub-camp of the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp were used at the airbase between November 1944 and February 1945, a state police spokesman said, adding that more than 100 are known to have died of hunger and typhus.
Tests indicate the bodies are the right age to be Jews used as forced labourers in the area.
Protests came from Rabbi Elyakim Schlesinger, head of the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe. In a letter to authorities in Stuttgart, the London-based rabbi said it was imperative that the remains not be removed.
"One of the pillars of the Jewish faith is the inviolability of the final resting place," Rabbi Schlesinger wrote.
Meanwhile, German police and prosecutors - who are treating the discovery as a mass murder - are 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."
Rabbis at the Brussels-based Rabbinical Centre 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 U.S. 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.
The airfield, in the southern suburb of Echterdingen next to Stuttgart's civilian airport, is used to transport troops and cargo. The 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation uses the base to fly VIPs to and from Stuttgart, and the military community's main postal facility is there.
Subject: German news