I've never been atracted to the idea of the Unknown Warrior, buried in Westminster Abbey. His corpse was deliberately chosen after the First World War so that nobody should ever know who he was, or even from which theatre of war he came. It has seemed to me that this idea (although I understand its motivations) disregards the sacred reality and particularity of every individual human being. The airy subPlatonic notion of a representative unknown and depersonalised soldier, surely, is a lesser concept than the rich truth of whoever the real person buried in the Abbey actually and really was, made by God in all his uniqueness.
I feel rather like this about the recent burial, with Jewish rites, of bones from Auschwitz, in the Jewish cemetery at Bushey in Hertfordshire. The site is apparently destined to become a holocaust memorial.
We have been told very little about these bones. Presumably scientific examination was undertaken which did prove that they were Jewish? How so? Might not the results of the investigations have also shown where they originally came from? Were they members of the same family? - that would give a particular resonance to this sombre event. Popular archaeological programmes on TV create the impression that, given DNA and so many other modern wonders of Natural Philosophy, a very great deal can be discovered from the smallest fragments of human tissue.
I don't want to make a great fuss about this. I certainly do wish the Jewish community well as they honour these members of their race with the respectful burial they were denied in the fearful genocide of Hitlerite Europe. And I am very glad that Vincent Nichols was at the event.
I am just uneasy about the lack of information made public in our media. It is almost as if, as in the case of the Unknown Warrior, the real point of the operation is the elimination of the individuality of those buried.