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Dachau to Durham: Holocaust victims get proper burial

Posted May 25, 2014
Updated May 26, 2014

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— A father and his son, along with the unknown remains of Holocaust victims, gained closure Sunday after an “ashcake” containing the ashes of those killed at Dachau, a Nazi concentration camp, was buried at Beth El Synagogue in Durham.

“Today, we bury the ashes of one or two or ten people, we do not know,” said Rabbi Daniel Greyber, who led the ceremony.

The ashcake was given to Walter Corsbie, a U.S. Army Air Corps soldier, by a Dachau survivor after the camp was liberated in 1945.

“And urged him to take them home as a physical reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust,” Greyber said.

Corsbie hid the ashes in his Surry County home until shortly before his death in 1986 when he told his son, Joe, who then kept them unknown for another 25 years until telling relatives about them.

“And so for him, these ashes became a sacred trust and he very much wanted to see them given dignity and respect,” said Mirinda Kossoff, Joe Corsbie’s cousin.

That meant a proper funeral at a Jewish cemetery with Jewish customs.

Kossoff reached out to Sharon Halperin, the daughter of Holocaust survivors and founder of The Holocaust Speaker’s Bureau, who started the process leading to Sunday’s ceremony.

The ceremony was meaningful and emotional for the Holocaust survivors present.

“It was an emotional experience because I usually don’t cry like that,” said Esther Lederman, a Holocaust survivor who attended the ceremony. “When I put those little clumps of soil, I felt it was for my mom and my sister.”

Rebecca Hauser, another survivor, thanked Joe Corsbie for the memorial she never had. Hauser never saw her parents or three brothers again after she was sent to the Auchwitz concentration camp.

“Finally, there is a marker of the six million Jews,” she said.

Sunday’s ceremony provided closure not just for those buried, but also for Joe Corsbie and his father.

“This ceremony was coming full circle for him, a completion of finishing what his father couldn't do,” Kossoff said.

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