THE remains of six Jewish people murdered at Auschwitz are to be buried in a traditional ceremony after sensationally being discovered in the archives of London's Imperial War Museum.
The remains of the five adults and one child have been described as bone fragments and ashes.
They have been in storage for more than 20 years since they were bequeathed in the late 1990s by a Holocaust survivor who took them during a visit to the Nazi death camp.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis will officiate at the funeral at Bushey New Cemetery, London, on Sunday, January 20 (11am).
It is believed to be the first time that the remains of people murdered at a Nazi death camp will have been laid to rest in Britain.
Mark Frazer, of the Chief Rabbi's office, told the Jewish Telegraph: "The Imperial War Museum contacted our office to say that they had discovered the remains in their archives.
"They had been sitting in the archives 'for a while', but the staff didn't know what to do with them."
He added: "It became apparent that they were donated by a Holocaust survivor, who, despite the war museum stating that they didn't want to take them, gave them anyway. After they had done tests and various other checks, we decided we needed to do a funeral."
The survivor who bequeathed them had returned to Auschwitz a number of decades ago, when it was possible to scoop up mounds of ashes and remains, and brought them back to the UK.
Even today, there are fragments of bones and ashes in the lake opposite the bombed crematorium.
It is understood that as well as the human remains in two boxes, the survivor offered a number of Holocaust-related items to the museum, including spectacles and shoes.
The authorities at Auschwitz-Birkenau confirmed that the items were from the camp. Testing found that they included "adult and child human remains" as well as material from cremation ovens.
Mr Frazer said: "To many of the survivors and members of the community, this funeral will be seen as a funeral of their relatives or friends. It's like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
"It's right to give a dignified funeral to victims of the Holocaust. It really is historic."
The chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, Karen Pollock, told the Jewish Telegraph that the memories of those who were murdered "must live on".
She said: "When the camps were liberated, survivors started asking questions about their families - who survived, where were they, what happened to them?
"For the majority, they had lost most - if not all - of their relatives in the Holocaust.
"They did not have a chance to say goodbye, attend a funeral or pay their respects to their own families and to the millions of Jews who were murdered and who did not have the burial they deserved.
"This ceremony is firstly an opportunity to bless, bury and lay to rest these victims, but also it is a moment for Holocaust survivors, and for all of us, to come together and remember."
The president of the United Synagogue, Michael Goldstein, said: "For everyone connected with the United Synagogue - and, I'm quite sure, the entire community - this can only be described as the ultimate act of kindness.
"We have the opportunity to do what was denied to our brothers and sisters during the Holocaust - to provide a dignified and appropriate Jewish burial.
"We must remember that although we have only the remains of a number of victims of the Shoah, each was a person in his or her own right, with a family and a life and a Jewish identity, with hopes and dreams just like each of us.
"One of them was just a child. I will hug my own children especially tightly next Sunday."
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