(JTA) – A sonar scan of the bottom of the Danube River in Budapest revealed no human remains, a local rabbi who initiated the search for the bodies of Holocaust victims said.
Volunteers for ZAKA, an Orthodox Jewish group that is based in Israel and provides emergency services as well as collection of human remains for burial, operated the sonar from the river banks on Tuesday, Slomo Koves, the head of the Chabad-affiliated EMIH Jewish federation of Hungary, told JTA.
The team operating the sonar will be back next month for another scan, he said.
In 2011, human remains were discovered during construction work on a bridge overlooking the Danube. DNA tests run on the bones in August 2015 found that at least nine of the 15 samples were Ashkenazi Jews from Europe and that six others could also be.
In 1944-1945, Hungarian Nazi-collaborators from the Arrow Cross shot thousands of Jews on the banks of the Danube.
These murders are at the heart of an ongoing and polarizing debate in Hungary about how government-led and other commemoration efforts should address the issue of complicity. The Mazsihisz Jewish federation has accused the government of whitewashing this complicity, though EMIH has disputed this.
“Whether this is controversial or not is really not an issue,” Koves said of his group’s efforts to bring to burial Arrow Cross victims. “The only thing that matters is the major mitzvah of bringing the victims to burial.” He said the government was helpful in obtaining permits for the searches.