May 20, 2024


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Holocaust ashes held by WWII veteran get buried in SC

Rabbi Jonathan Case, Dr. Lilly Filler and Rabbi Hesh Epstein stand near a memorial for victims of the Holocaust and Filler's family who survived the Holocaust at Beth Shalom Cemetery on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. Recently ashes of a victim of the Dachau concentration camp in Germany were interned in front of the gravestone.  (Joshua Boucher/The State via AP)

Rabbi Jonathan Case, Dr. Lilly Filler and Rabbi Hesh Epstein stand in the vicinity of a memorial for victims of the Holocaust and Filler’s family who survived the Holocaust at Beth Shalom Cemetery on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. Recently ashes of a target of the Dachau concentration camp in Germany ended up interned in front of the gravestone. (Joshua Boucher/The State through AP)


Men and women positioned stones atop a granite memorial in a cemetery off Trenholm Highway. The stones were a reminder that the lifeless are not neglected and stay on in the memory and lives of people positioning the rocks, Rabbi Hesh Epstein said.

The stones are white and brown, some gray, and the memorial stands about waist substantial. Carved into the granite is a yellow Star of David, marking this as a memorial to a Jewish family members.

“May the souls of the family associates of Jadzia and Ben Stern, who perished from the brutal palms of the Nazis in the Holocaust, be permanently remembered,” the memorial reads.

It lists the names of Jadzia and Ben’s mothers and fathers and siblings.

But the ashes and little items of bones that were being staying buried on Sunday weren’t identified family users of Jadzia and Ben.

No one particular at the ceremony knew the human being or folks whose cremated stays loaded the cardboard cylinder that was about the dimension of a pill bottle.

The only clue to the ashes’ origins was a message published on the container:

“These ashes was taken from the crematory at Dachau, Germany on 11 Feb. 1945. Prisoners had been burned in the oven that these ashes were taken from, smaller portions of bones continues to be.”

The story of how the ashes came to be buried in Columbia 75 several years afterwards and about 4,600 miles from Dachau is intertwined with the lifestyle of John J. Bouknight, a South Carolina gentleman from the Dutch Fork area who served in Globe War II and helped keep track of down Nazi officers to carry them to justice, according to his loved ones.

As his grandchildren structured his belongings, they uncovered the box of ashes.


Daniel Bouknight and his sister had been cleaning their grandfather’s household in November when she located the container in a closet.

The inscriptions on the box of ashes referenced one of the initially and greatest focus camps the Nazis operated at Dachau, Germany, about 10 miles north of Munich. Jews and other individuals have been interned and compelled to function and stay in inhumane problems, ensuing in death by illness and malnutrition for 10 of hundreds of folks, historians estimate. Nazis murdered hundreds in executions and marches to and from Dachau.

A lot of of the bodies of those who died have been incinerated in brick crematoriums, which can however be seen at a Dachau memorial website in Germany. The ashes Bouknight saved in his closet had been stated to occur from just one of these crematoriums.

How and when Bouknight arrived to have the ashes is not known to his spouse and children. The Military deployed him to Germany months just after the inscription on the box. His spouse and children does know some about his expertise in World War II.

Bouknight spoke little about his time as a U.S. soldier in Germany, his spouse and children said. Above the several years, his household has pieced jointly some of his armed service background.

At 18 a long time previous, Bouknight joined the Military in 1945 as the war neared its conclusion, his grandchildren said. By the time he was finished with essential training, Allies experienced won the war in Europe. The Military disbanded most of the unit that Bouknight was component of, in accordance to his family members, but he was one of a few troopers in the unit despatched to Germany.

He landed in northern Germany in December 1945, his grandchildren explained. He probable arrived in Dachau, which is in southern Germany, not prolonged right after he landed.

The Army assigned him to a unit tasked with monitoring down Nazi officers and bringing them back to Nuremberg and Dachau, exactly where they would be imprisoned to await trial.

Bouknight might have been component of an artillery device, as some records suggest he worked on tanks and other significant machines, his loved ones stated. As part of the American and Allied forces, he also assisted view in excess of food items provides for German civilians.

When Bouknight’s time in Germany and Dachau remained veiled, what he professional there — the inhumanity and desolation he observed — afflicted him, his grandson Daniel thinks.

Afterwards in lifetime, in the couple of times Bouknight spoke about Dachau, “there was sadness in his face,” Daniel reported.

The spouse and children thinks the affect Dachau had on him could be the cause he hardly ever outlined the container of ashes. It was far too tough for him to converse about his practical experience.

His grandfather did tell a single tale about Germany enough periods for Daniel to remember.

A German boy stole some foods rations from him, Daniel remembered his grandfather telling. He caught up with the boy and introduced him back again to the officers. The officers explained it was up to Bouknight what was to be finished with the boy. In a time when troopers had been hardened by war, Bouknight only took the boy house to his mother. Then for months, the boy’s mom kept bringing Bouknight food and items for bringing her son household.


Daniel Bouknight described his grandfather as the “most ethical man I understood.”

He was a individual of higher character who rejected bigotry and racism, which Daniel believes came from his grandfather’s expertise in Environment War II. He taught his grandchildren to be the same way. He was humble about his war knowledge and in lifestyle.

When he returned to the United States from Germany pursuing a car crash that almost killed him, he went to function at Olympia Mills, his relatives stated.

He also began painting. But he was colour blind. The to start with trees he painted were blue, Daniel said. Bouknight’s wife begun acquiring the hues completely ready for him.

In 1989, The Point out wrote about Bouknight and his paintings. The reporter mentioned his humility, saying he was humble about an future exhibit.

“I just hope men and women will like what they see,” Bouknight claimed about the show.

Thousands of his paintings hung in people’s house, the article stated.

Around the years, Bouknight’s loved ones observed out about functions of kindness he had done without the need of telling hardly any person. He had specified land he owned in North Carolina to anyone and given a home to a relative. He acquired groceries each individual week at a farmer’s marketplace and gave them away to many others at the publish place of work in Chapin.

“He’s generally been a giving man or woman,” Bouknight’s spouse, Janie, informed The Point out in the 1989 report.

When the grandchildren located the ashes, they anxious their grandfather may perhaps have performed some thing mistaken — that keeping the ashes was disrespectful to the dead.

The grandchildren achieved out to Rabbi Hesh Epstein of the Chabad of South Carolina in Columbia, which is the local chapter of the world’s largest Jewish educational corporation.

“I feel he Googled ‘Rabbis,’” Epstein explained with a snicker.

Actually, Daniel searched “Synagogues in close proximity to me.”

Epstein relieved their fears about their grandfather carrying out improper. He experienced finished one thing wonderful by trying to keep the ashes, Epstein instructed them. This was an prospect to give a human being or people the previous rites they probably never ever been given.

Households getting the remains of Dachau victims in the possessions of family who served World War II is not unheard of. In 2014 and 2016, households had ceremonies for newly discovered continues to be in North Carolina and St. Louis.

Epstein had to discover a position to bury the ashes that the Bouknight relatives brought to him.

He thought of the Beth Shalom Cemetery, a Jewish burial web page in Arcadia Lakes related with the synagogue of the identical identify. There, a plaque dedicates the cemetery “In loving memory of the six million who perished in the Holocaust.”

That plaque was erected by Jadzia and Ben Stern about 25 decades back, explained Dr. Lilly Filler, the daughter of Jadzia and Ben and chair of the South Carolina Council of The Holocaust, a condition authorities agency that teaches about the Jewish genocide.

In 2010, Filler and her siblings had the Holocaust monument with the yellow Star of David created to memorialize members of their spouse and children who have been recognized and these who they by no means realized.

The monument memorializes Filler’s mom and dad, who survived the Holocaust. It also honors her four grandparents and 7 aunts and uncles who died in the Holocaust, loved ones she never understood.

The grounds near her family’s memorial were a proper location for other people she did not know, Filler reported.

The monument she and her siblings erected, whilst focused to their Jewish household, acknowledges the several other individuals killed by the Nazis, Filler said.

“This working day we renew the bonds that bind us to all those who have long gone the way of all the Earth,” the monument reads on its back. “As we replicate upon these whose memory moves us this working day, we find consolation and toughness. They are not lifeless who live in the hearts they depart guiding.”

Like the ashes of the unfamiliar, Filler’s father was imprisoned for a time in aspect of the sprawling Dachau concentration camp right until it was liberated in April 1945.

Epstein and Filler organized via Beth Shalom Synagogue to have the ashes of the not known buried at the memorial.

Carrying the container of ashes in his pocket to the cemetery, Epstein explained he felt like he was carrying the historical burden of the Holocaust and good obligation.

With a crowd of about 50 individuals, Rabbi Epstein along with Rabbi Jonathan Situation of Beth Shalom Synagogue held a Jewish burial company for the ashes.

They spoke Psalms, recited a memorial prayer for Holocaust victims and stated the Kaddish, a burial prayer, “as if everyone there was a immediate relative and mourning the individuals represented by the ashes,” Epstein reported.

“For some unfamiliar reason, we were being decided on by Providence and the kindness of strangers who are strangers no far more to find you and lay you to relaxation among your people. You are dwelling, and we are grateful,” Rabbi Epstein mentioned.

The Rabbis poured the ashes into the compact grave. Anyone covered the grave with earth at the conclude.

Filler identified as the memorial a “once in a lifetime” ceremony for her to be a part of and stated it was stunning that the ashes of the not known gained a “proper and respectful burial.”

People inclined to give their time and hearts to an unfamiliar individual — it reminded him of one thing his grandfather would do, Daniel Bouknight explained.