European rabbis believe hundreds of Jews' skeletons are stored in warehouses of local authorities in France, and are warning against their incineration – as permitted by a law passed in the country recently.
The Conference of European Rabbis is now calling on French authorities to make an effort to locate the offspring of the dead in order to allow them to bury their loved ones.
French law allows the purchase of a burial plot for a limited period of time – from five to 100 years, after which, if the family of the deceased fails to repurchase the plot, the municipality may remove the corpse from the grave. If the area around the plot is neglected and the tomb is not visited by anyone, the deceased can be evacuated after three years.
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Family reburied following legal battle
According to French rabbis' estimates, the municipalities' warehouses contain today the bones of some 10,000 people who died from the mid 20th century, including hundreds of Jews.
As of late, following an amendment to the constitution in the country, the authorities are permitted to burn them – and Europe's rabbis fear for the dignity afforded the dead.
In the past few days, the bodies of the Tadaska family members, who were among France's Jewish dignitaries in the 19th century, were reburied in Israel following a long legal battle led by their offspring for the release of the bones from the Paris municipality's warehouses, where they had been kept in recent years.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis, participated in the funeral and called on France to respect the Jewish dead on its territory.
"The release of the Tadaska family for burial is important, but our demand is unequivocal: To find a legal solution for Jews' burial in France," he said.
Tadaska family members' funeral (Photo: Moshe Friedman)
Rabbi Goldschmidt plans to meet with the French interior minister on the matter soon, and is demanding an interim solution allowing Jewish families to rebury their loved ones or to bring their bones to be buried in Israel.
He called on Jews in France to visit their ancestors' graves and take care of their maintenance, as well as update the authorities on their relation to the deceased. He said he expected the authorities to initiate action and devote great efforts to locate relatives who fail to approach them.
The president of the Conference of European Rabbis defined the current situation as "horribly absurd" and "a great danger," adding that the rabbis were "concerned and shocked over the fate of thousands of Jewish graves in France, and hundreds of bones which have already been removed from them and put down disgracefully… Now they can also, God forbid, burn the skeletons!"