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Holocaust victims laid to rest in Hungary

The remains of about 20 people, most of them Ashkenazi Jews, have been buried in Budapest's Jewish cemetery. A Hungarian pro-Nazi group executed thousands on the banks of the Danube River near the end of World War II.

A group of about 200 people, including a Hungarian government minister and members of the Christian clergy, attended the Jewish funeral ceremony on Friday.

Representatives of Hungarian Jews laid to rest hundreds of bone fragments, some showing bullet holes, in two wooden caskets. Authorities believe that the bones belonged to Holocaust victims killed by the

Hungarian Arrow Cross

in late 1944 or early 1945.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," said Peter Kardos, Budapest's chief rabbi, who was 8 years old when he survived the mass shootings on the banks of the Danube River.

Hungarian Jews being shipped to Auschwitz +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Thousands of Hungarian Jews were shipped to Auschwitz

"There were hundreds of us lined up by the river, then we heard an order that those with children should leave, so my mother took my brother and me away," he told the AFP news agency.

"We were lucky as they didn't shoot children that day for some reason."

The remains were found during the renovation of Margit Bridge in 2011, when divers spotted the bones wedged around a pillar. Preliminary examinations indicated they belonged to around 20 different people, including women and children. Last August, an anthropology student ran DNA tests on the fragments and concluded that most samples were almost certainly from European Ashkenazi Jews.

'Unique' mass murders

The Nazi-allied Arrow Cross group killed an estimated 3,600 Jews in Budapest in the final months of the war, a fraction of the almost 600,000 Hungarian Jews that perished in the Holocaust.

Arrow Cross Party marching in Budapest Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-680-8283A-13A / Faupel / CC-BY-SA

The Arrow Cross Party claimed power after the Hungarian government agreed on a truce with Russia

"No similar series of murders took place in other large European cities. It is truly unique," said historian Gabor Tabajdi, speaking with the Associated Press. "Mass murders were taking place daily in the center of the city."

In recent years, some Jewish groups have accused the government of Viktor Orban of

trying to downplay

Hungary's role in the Holocaust.

Andras Heisler, head of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, said the burial was "the first and only case in 70 years" that bones believed to be of Hungarian Holocaust victims had been found and buried.

"This burial is a very important moment in the processing of these events," Heisler told AP. "I'd like if Hungarian Jews could break away from the position of victims they have been in for 70 years and move in the direction of progress and building the future."

Watch video 06:33

Hungary: A controversial wartime memorial (07.05.2014)

dj/cmk (AP, AFP)

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