More than 1,200 Jewish Holocaust victims buried after mass grave discovered

23 May 2019, 09:49 | Updated: 23 May 2019, 18:11

More than 1,200 Jewish Holocaust victims, whose remains were discovered earlier this year after builders stumbled across a Nazi-era mass grave, have been buried in Belarus.

The remains were uncovered by chance in January as builders were laying the foundations for a housing development in Brest.

Soldiers were drafted in to exhume the remains of the 1,214 people killed during the Nazi occupation at the site of what served as a Jewish ghetto from 1941-1942.

Nazi Germany occupied Belarus, then part of the Soviet Union, during the Second World War, killing tens of thousands of its Jews.

The remains were buried on Wednesday in 120 blue caskets embossed with the Star of David that were laid side-by-side and two-deep in a giant grave in a city cemetery.

Israel's ambassador in Belarus, Alon Shoham, attended the event along with 300 other dignitaries and members of the Jewish community.

"The soul goes up to heaven through this process, so it was very important for the Jewish community that it was all done with Jewish custom," he said.

Some of the skulls they found had bullet holes, suggesting victims had been executed by a shot to the back of the head.

Soldiers also found personal effects such as leather shoes that had not decomposed.

Jewish community member Regina Simonenko said she had "mixed feelings" about attending the funeral.

She said: "If we don't remember, then things like this can happen again."