Paris: A somewhat macabre drama almost threatened to undermine the exhuming of the remains of the relatives of Zionist visionary Theodor (Binyamin Ze’ev) Herzl due to be interred in Israel this week.
Representatives of the Hevra Kadisha Burial Societies in Bordeaux were astonished to discover that the coffin in which Herzl's son Hans had been buried alongside his sister had gone missing.
Paulina, Herzl's eldest daughter, passed away on September 14th 1930 at the age of 40. She was mentally disturbed and apparently died from an overdose of morphine. Hans Herzl committed suicide by shooting himself in the head upon hearing of his sister's death.
As per his request, he was buried alongside his sister at the Jewish cemetery in Bordeaux, and registration of the burial was documented. According to the documents, there were supposed to be two coffins at the site.
On Thursday, representatives of the Bordeaux Hevra Kadisha arrived at the cemetery to prepare the burial site for the official ceremony of exhuming the remains of Herzl's son and daughter buried 76 years ago.
When opening the joint grave they discovered it contained just one coffin marked as that of the daughter, Paulina. Although a comprehensive search was carried out the missing coffin could not found.
Following consultations, Hevra Kadisha representative decided to sieve the earth after which they found two handles which apparently belonged to the coffin, as well as skeletal remains. The bones were declared to be those of Hans Herzl and they were placed in a coffin due to be flown to Israel on Tuesday along with his sister's coffin.
End of journey
On Wednesday, a formal ceremony attended by the president and prime minister will be held in Jerusalem where the coffins of Herzl's two children will be interred alongside their father.
Herzl was buried in a State funeral on Mount Herzl, named after him, in August 1949, a little after the founding of the State. In his will Herzl asked to have his children buried alongside his own grave, and two plots were indeed allocated.
Several years ago, however, an academic study conducted by Dr Ariel Feldstein revealed that the graves had remained empty. This was due to the embarrassment Herzl's offspring caused among the Zionist leadership during the State's first years:
Paulina, Herzl's eldest daughter suffered from a mental disorder, whereas Hans converted to Christianity, returned to Judaism and then committed suicide a day after his sister passed away. The youngest daughter, Trude, died in the Holocaust and the place of her burial is unknown.