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Hidden from Nazis, ancient Jewish headstones unearthed in Vienna

(JTA) — Twenty ancient headstones that were hidden in the ground during the Nazi occupation were discovered during renovation work at Vienna’s oldest Jewish cemetery.

“The stones were buried in 1943 at the Seegasse Cemetery by members of the Jewish community in several layers carefully separated by earth to avoid their destruction by the Nazis,” the Jewish Community of Vienna said Tuesday in a statement on its website.

Situated on the eastern bank of the Danube River, the northern Vienna cemetery dates back to the 16th century, according to the Jewish Community of Vienna, or IKG.

Some 75 headstones have been restored during the renovation that has been conducted by the city of Vienna and the federal government since 2004. The renovation is expected to be completed in 2018, according to Reuters.

Authorities are following a scheme from 1917 to place each restored headstone in its original place, IKG wrote.

“The discovery of centuries-old gravestones at the Jewish cemetery of Seegasse is a powerful reminder of the tragic and eventful life of the Jewish community of Vienna — and its destruction in the Nazi era,” IKG President Oskar Deutsch wrote in its statement.

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