AN Israeli search-and-rescue group was this week scouring the Danube River in Budapest for the remains of thousands of Jews murdered during the Holocaust.
The divers, from the ZAKA organisation, are using a sonar device that can reach a depth of 500 feet.
Up to last night, nothing had been found... but more searches will be held next month.
Eighty thousand Jews were massacred on the banks of the river between October and December, 1944, by Hungarian forces under the fascist government of the Arrow Cross Party.
ZAKA said that no systematic search for the remains had ever been conducted.
More than 565,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust — most of them in Auschwitz.
The Danube mission was announced after a meeting between Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and his Hungarian counterpart, Pinter Sandor.
“I hope that the ZAKA divers will be able to bring these holy martyrs to a full Jewish burial,” said Deri, who is also an ultra-Orthodox rabbi.
“May God avenge their blood.”
He added that negotiations over the mission began three years ago after relatives of the murdered began efforts to try and recover any remains.
They approached ZAKA — which specialises in recovering Jewish remains from terrorist attacks and natural disasters — to undertake the task. The organisation began preliminary investigations into whether or not any remains could still be found, especially in light of the recovery of some remains that were found in 2011 during the renovation of the Margit Bridge.
Those remains were later buried in a Jewish cemetery in Budapest in 2016.
A team of ZAKA divers flew to Hungary on Sunday to begin the search for bones in the Danube.
According to Deri’s office, Hungarian Interior Minister Sandor Pinter said that he would provide “advanced means” to help in the mission and that any remains found would be taken to Israel for burial.
The search follows news — highlighted on the front page of last week’s Jewish Telegraph — that the ashes of six Holocaust victims, which had lain in museum archives for decades, are to be given a full Jewish burial in Britain.
Deri, who was in Hungary on an official visit, on Monday visited The Shoes memorial on the Danube Promenade. Sixty pairs of old-fashioned shoes made of cast iron line the embankment in memory of the Jews who were murdered there.
The victims were ordered to remove their shoes and then were shot so that their bodies fell into the river.
ZAKA chairman Yehudah Meshi Zahav said that the mission would be “the last act of goodness that we can do for these martyrs who were killed in the sanctification of God’s name”.
He added: “This is a very complex task because of strong currents operating in the river, as well as the water temperature and poor visibility below the water.
“The advance team carried out their work with great professionalism, using the sonar device. In the coming days, we will work on the interpretation of their findings — photographs and solar scans.”
He said that ZAKA “sees this as a mission of the first order to do everything to bring them to burial in Israel”.
Hungary’s government, which has appointed a Chabad rabbi as the director of a new Holocaust museum, claims it recognises Hungary’s part in Nazi crimes and will not whitewash the past.
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