Polish Rabbi Protests Christian Reburial of Remains Dug Up Near Jewish Cemetery

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A Christian burial service for the human remains unearthed in Jaslo, October 2020.
A Christian burial service for the human remains unearthed in Jaslo, October 2020. Credit: Jaslo County

Human remains found at a construction site near a Jewish cemetery in the Polish town of Jaslo were recently given a Christian reburial, despite the fact that the faith of the deceased was unknown. 

Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, says the burial was done illegally and the remains should be returned to their place of origin. In a letter to authorities in June, Schudrich said nobody had notified the Jewish community of the findings as required, and demanded a halting of works until an invetigation is complete. 

The Institute of National Remembrance (known as IPN), which investigates Nazi and communist crimes, examined the remains in situ (without moving them), but didn't publish its findings.  Last month, local authorities buried the remains in a cemetery in Warzyce, not far from Jaslo. Eleven caskets were buried in a mass grave there in a Christian burial service held in the presence of a priest.  

Schudrich told Haaretz on Monday that it’s not certain that the remains were those of Jews “because during the war the Germans killed both Jews and non-Jews and buried them in the Jewish cemetery.”  

The relatives of a Christian Polish family said to have been gunned down in Jaslo after hiding a Jewish girl are demanding the authorities check into the identity of the remains to see whether some of them belong to their family members. The relatives cite witnesses who say that they may have been buried in the Jewish cemetery. 

Meir Bulka, the founder of a Jewish heritage group in Poland called J-nerations, visited Jaslo in the summer to try and track down the remains that had been found. He said that several families from Jaslo had authorized him to look into the issue on their behalf, fearing the remains found were those of Jews.

“Somebody fell asleep at the wheel. The contractor’s tractor should have been stopped, they’ve been continuing the work as though nothing’s happened,” Bulka said.

“I call upon the Polish authorities to stop this desecration of the Jewish cemetery immediately and not to permit the road works to continue until an acceptable solution to the Jews and halakha is found,” he added.

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