IASI, Romania (Reuters) - Romania’s Jewish community buried on Monday the remains of dozens of Jews killed by Romanian troops during World War Two and found in a mass grave in the north of the country.
The memorial, dedicated to about 60 victims unearthed in a forest area near the village of Popricani, took place in the Jewish cemetery of Iasi in northeastern Romania. Archaeologists unearthed the mass grave in November.
Quoting witnesses, the Elie Wiesel institute said more than 100 Jews — men and women, including elderly people, and children — were buried there. The site was in an area through which Romanian and German troops advanced at the start of their invasion of the Soviet Union.
“We gathered here to bury remains of 60 Jews murdered 70 years ago ... This moment marks a duty of ours,” Aurel Vainer, head of the Federation of the Jewish Communities in Romania told Reuters.
“This is a moment of remembrance which shall represent a lesson of history that must never be forgotten.”
An international commission headed by Nobel laureate Wiesel said in 2004 that between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews were killed in Romania and areas it controlled during World War Two as an ally of Nazi Germany.
Many of them were slaughtered in pogroms such as the 1941 killing of 15,000 Jews in Iasi — which had a particularly large Jewish population — or died in labor camps or on death trains.
Romania has only recently started to come to terms with its role in the extermination of Jews, admitting for the first time in 2003 that it took part.
After Romania switched sides in the war in 1944, communist regimes did little to uncover the killings while nationalist governments after 1989 also kept them under wraps. Romania was home to 750,000 Jews before the war, but only 8,000-10,000 remain.
Additional reporting by Radu Marinas in Bucharest; Editing by Susan Fenton