Six unidentified Holocaust victims to be given unprecedented Jewish funeral in UK

The remains of six unidentified victims of the Holocaust have been stored at the Imperial War Museum for over 20 years.

London (CNN)The remains of six unidentified Holocaust victims are to be given a formal Jewish burial after being stored at London's Imperial War Museum (IWM) for decades.

The victims will be laid to rest in a Jewish cemetery in Hertfordshire on January 20, just one week before Holocaust Memorial Day. It is believed to be the first time that victims of the Holocaust will be buried in the UK.
Melvyn Hartog, Head of United Synagogue Burial -- the burial society overseeing the ceremony -- told CNN that burying the remains of the victims is a "unique and holy responsibility."
    He said that following the funeral service the remains will be taken to their final resting place, and Holocaust survivors will be invited to fill the graves with earth.
    The ash and bone fragments, believed to be from five adults and a child, have been stored at the IWM since January 1997, when a private donor bequeathed a number of Holocaust-related items to the museum.
    The remains of the victims were collected at Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp by a Holocaust survivor.
    The museum, which has a license to hold human tissue, will soon hand over the remains to the Office of the Chief Rabbi and the United Synagogue -- a union of British Orthodox Jewish synagogues -- having consulted the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis and the Auschwitz museum in Poland.
    The IWM told CNN the museum decided to relinquish the remains after conducting a review of all the items in its archives relating to the Holocaust, ahead of the construction of new World War II and Holocaust Galleries at the museum, which are due to open in 2021.
    The museum said that while they had originally expressed interest in acquiring a selection of items from the donor, they had explicitly expressed that they did not wish to acquire the human remains.
    They were nevertheless sent to the museum, it said. Testing carried out at the English Heritage Centre for Archaeology confirmed that the remains were likely to be from five adults and one child.
    IWM consequently contacted the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland -- which confirmed that the remains did indeed originate from their site -- but both organizations concluded that "it was not appropriate" for the remains to be returned there.