Jewish Leaders Bury Unidentified Victim Found in Former World War II Ghetto

Human remains discovered within the area that was formerly Poland's Warsaw Ghetto, believed to belong to a Jewish man who was in hiding, were laid to rest on Tuesday by members of the capital city's Jewish community.

The remains of the unidentified victim were uncovered this summer in a building in Muranow, a Warsaw district that was home to a mostly Jewish population prior to World War II. It was the site of the ghetto during the Nazi occupation of Poland, and it's likely that the man may have been hiding when Nazis razed the area to the ground to quash a 1943 uprising.

"We are here as the family for a person we don't know," Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, said at the burial of the remains, which were wrapped in a white cloth.

A community nonprofit operates out of the building now and the remains were discovered by Marek Slusarz, who runs the organization. He discovered the remains when he was with a plumber working in the building and alerted the police and the Jewish community.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Warsaw Burial
Warsaw's Jewish community held a funeral for an unidentified Holocaust victim after human remains were recently discovered in an area that belonged to the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II, in Warsaw, Poland, Tuesday September 14, 2021. The remains were buried in Warsaw's Jewish Cemetery, with the country's chief rabbi saying, "We are here as the family for a person we don't know." Vanessa Gera/AP Photo

Four men pulled the cart to the grave, where the bones were buried with soil from Israel, and Jewish leaders recited Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead.

The ceremony took place in Warsaw's Jewish Cemetery, one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe in a city that was a leading center of Jewish life until the Holocaust.

Leslaw Piszewski, chairman of the Jewish Community in Warsaw, said the burial was a very emotional event for him, all the more so coming on the eve of Yom Kippur, one of the most sacred days in the Jewish calendar.

"After nearly 80 years this unknown person got his dignity back," Piszewski said. "This is very important. This is the only thing that we can do for the unknown victim."

The area was rebuilt after the war on top of the wartime rubble.

Slusarz said that despite the tragedy, it was a source of satisfaction for him to have a role in the victim receiving a dignified burial. Not Jewish himself, he said he hoped such events would inspire younger generations in Poland to preserve the memory of the centuries of Jewish and non-Jewish co-existence in Poland.

A representative from the Israeli Embassy laid a wreath and Wojciech Kolarski, secretary of state in the office of President Andrzej Duda, also paid his respects at the funeral.