(Miami, January 27, 2017)—Targum Shlishi is supporting an effort undertaken by ZAKA, the Israeli search and rescue organization, to conduct research on the fate of the remains of Jews killed in the Holocaust whose bodies were disposed of in the Danube River.
It is estimated that during several months at the end of World War II, between ten and sixty thousand Jews were shot and killed on the banks of the Danube by Nazis and their Hungarian counterparts. Those Jews, primarily residents of Budapest, were shot at the edge of the riverbank and were typically bound together or had weights tied to their feet, so their bodies fell into the river and sank.
“We know from witness accounts that this was a systematic campaign that was typically carried out in the afternoons. Witnesses reported that the blood of the Danube would become red with the blood of the murdered Jews,” says Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi.
“It is shocking that seven decades later, there has been no effort to find these bodies. The remains still have not been located, recovered and given Jewish burials. ZAKA’s initiative to research the fate of the bodies is a noble one,” Rubin continues. “We are announcing our support for this research in conjunction with International Holocaust Remembrance Day as a reminder that there is so much work yet to be done—honoring the victims, documenting history, and countering Holocaust denial are vitally important. Equally important is to respond effectively to the global rise of anti-Semitism.”
This project is the result of collaboration between several partner organizations, and was spurred by the 2011 discovery of several bodies found in the Danube near the Margaret Bridge during repairs. Upon extensive investigation by the police, forensic examinations at Semmelweis University medical school, and other methods, it was concluded that of the fifteen bodies found, nine had genetic signs characteristic of Ashkenazi Jews. Those bones received a Jewish burial in 2015, the first case since the Holocaust of bones being found and buried, according to Andras Heisler, president of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish communities.
That event spurred further discussions as to whether the bones of the thousands of Jews executed on the river banks could have survived in the water for so long. Researchers concluded that it was possible that the bone tissue could survive. Further research and analysis of the river currents and riverbed were conducted to determine the areas likely for the bones to have settled.
ZAKA is currently planning to conduct extensive research on the riverbed to illustrate underwater relief and elevated points where the bones could be. The research will take place in spring 2017, once the Danube River thaws, and will be conducted using sonar, video, and kinematic GPS instruments, in collaboration with local researchers. According to ZAKA, the banks of the river where the Jews were shot has been untouched since the mass murders (other parts of the river have been canalized and cleaned). Due to the geology of the river, the bodies would have been blocked by boulders and other obstacles, and the sedimentation process would have further trapped the bodies, all of which indicates that the bones will be preserved and located nearby.
The Hungarian government is also discussing the issue and ways of how to help deal with the fate of the victims.
ZAKA is Israel’s primary rescue and recovery volunteer organization, with thousands of volunteers on call 24/7 to respond to any terror attack, accident or disaster. ZAKA volunteers also work in specialist search and rescue units on land and sea and the UN-recognized ZAKA International Rescue Unit operates at mass casualty incidents around the world. A civilian volunteer organization with sole responsibility in Israel for dealing with incidents of unnatural death, ZAKA works in close cooperation with all the emergency services and security forces. For more information on ZAKA, visit its website at https://www.zaka.us/.
About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website at www.targumshlishi.org. Follow Aryeh Rubin, Targum Shlishi’s director, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Aryeh5.