Son fights to move mother from Christian cemetery

By Marcus Dysch, July 29, 2010

A bereaved son has described his frustration after an unsuccessful three-year battle to have his mother's body moved from a Christian cemetery to a Jewish resting place.

Eugene Linder's late mother, Biba Skodnik, is buried in Finland. He has pleaded with the country's Prime Minister and President to allow him to reinter her in Switzerland, where his family now lives.

But despite the assistance of London-based Rabbi Aba Dunner of the Conference of European Rabbis, Mr Linder has failed to receive permission from the Finnish authorities to move her.

Mrs Skodnik died in 2007 while the family was living in Tampere, Finland. With no Jewish cemetery available and unable to afford to transfer her body to a different city, Mr Linder was forced to bury his mother in a Christian cemetery in the city.

He has since moved to Bern, Switzerland, and hopes to have his mother reinterred there in a family plot at a Jewish cemetery.

Mr Linder said: "I would like my mother to be buried here in our family plot, where I too intend to be buried eventually.

"The big problem is that the Finnish authorities will not give permission for her to be reinterred. No matter how hard I try, they have not been very encouraging.

"I have clearly explained the religious position and that it is normal that Jewish people should be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

"I am at the end of my tether; what else can I do? It beggars belief. I'm not asking for any special privileges or favours. There is a legal duty [to move her] and there's also the moral aspect."

Rabbi Dunner added: "Unless there are serious and valid reasons preventing the exhumation of this body, we feel that Mr Linder has the right to demand that his mother be transferred for religious reasons.

"These are basic rights that are respected by all European countries and therefore Finland should allow Mr Linder to fulfil his religious beliefs."

A spokesman for Helsinki's chevrah kadisha said: "We have done maybe one or two moves, taking people to Israel. It should be allowed for Mr Linder to move his mother."

Emma Marjamäki, of Finland's Regional Government Agency, was unable to comment on Mr Linder's case directly, but said: "Moving bodies is very difficult in Finland. The law considers the grave to be the last resting place and to get permission to move the body is not easy.

"Mr Linder would need permission from the city of Tampere's environmental health department, permission from us, plus some permission from the Swiss embassy and an airline."

She said the city and regional authorities would charge around 170 euros [£140] each to consider the application for reburial.

Last updated: 12:47pm, July 29 2010