Soil from 39 Holocaust Sites Reburied at Washington Memorial

In a moving ceremony at the still-incomplete U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, soil from 39 Holocaust sites was interred this week in the museum’s Hall of Remembrance, where it will rest beneath an eternal flame.

The hour-long soil dedication ceremony Monday, attended by several hundred people, including Holocaust survivors and U.S. military personnel, is part of a series of events leading up to the museum’s long-awaited opening April 26.

Soil from concentration camp sites was mingled in Monday’s ceremony with soil from the gravesites of U.S. military liberators of the camps, including Arlington National Cemetery, in a literal and symbolic joining of survivors with liberators.

The ceremony was dedicated to “the memory of those without graves.”

Over the past year, survivors and others traveled to sites in Eastern and Western Europe to gather the soil. It was placed in urns, one for each site. On Monday, the names of the sites were read out as people reverently spilled the ashes into the spot over which the eternal flame will burn.

The last set of ashes, from Arlington cemetery, was spread over the ashes from the other sites.

Harvey Meyerhoff, chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, welcomed visitors and told them about his trip to Europe to gather soil.

Also making remarks was Miles Lerman, a Holocaust survivor who is the Holocaust council’s chairman of international relations.

“We dwell on the past not to inflame fury,” said Lerman, “but because we believe that in the ashes of this horrible chapter lies a lesson essential to our collective future as a democratic and free society — a society where, thank God, human differences are respected and human rights are preserved.”

The U.S. Army Band played selections including “Ani Ma’amin” and “The Partisan’s Hymn,” as a few in the audience quietly wept.

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