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Jewish American World War II hero who was missing for 80 years is finally brought home after his remains were discovered in mass grave alongside Nazi soldiers

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The remains of a Jewish American World War II soldier have been brought back to the US 80 years after he went missing and was discovered in a mass grave alongside Nazi soldiers.

Lieutenant Nathan Baskind, the son of Jewish Lithuanian and Russian immigrants, served in D-Day then disappeared in the Battle of Cherbourg on June 23, 1944.

The soldiers fate went unknown for decades and he is listed on the Walls of the Missing at the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France.

A genealogist touring a German military cemetery noticed Baskind’s name on a plaque under three crosses and contacted Operation Benjamin, an organization that works to identify Jewish American soldiers buried under incorrect religious markers. 

‘I had tremendous existential angst, that this kid was not at rest, and was mixed up with the enemy,’ Shalom Lamm, co-founder of Operation Benjamin, told The New York Post.

Lieutenant Nathan Baskind (pictured), the son of Jewish Lithuanian and Russian immigrants, served in D-Day then disappeared in the Battle of Cherbourg on June 23, 1944

Lieutenant Nathan Baskind (pictured), the son of Jewish Lithuanian and Russian immigrants, served in D-Day then disappeared in the Battle of Cherbourg on June 23, 1944

‘You have a Jewish kid from Pittsburgh buried with these enemy soldiers,’ he said emotionally.

Baskind served in Company C, 899th Tank Destroyer Battalion and was commanding a platoon of four M-10 tank destroyers on June 23, 1944 when he got shot by German soldiers, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency

After the war, American Graves Registration Command personnel learned from German records that Baskind had been captured and died of his wounds at a hospital for German air force personnel.

He was originally buried with 23 German soldiers at the hospital, then in 1957 when officials were combining that grave with another they found one of his identification tags.

The German War Grave Commission – the Volksbund – reported locating one of Baskind’s identification tags and portions of American military clothing, but failed to identify his remains.

Baskind's fate went unknown for decades until a genealogist touring a German military cemetery noticed his name on a plaque under three crosses (pictured)

Baskind’s fate went unknown for decades until a genealogist touring a German military cemetery noticed his name on a plaque under three crosses (pictured)

His remains were found in the Marigny German War Graves Cemetery combined with 52 Nazi soldiers

His remains were found in the Marigny German War Graves Cemetery combined with 52 Nazi soldiers

His remains were then combined with 52 Nazi soldiers and moved to the Marigny German War Graves Cemetery.

After Lamm and his partner Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter were contacted about Baskind’s gravesite, then began the process of exhuming his remains and bringing him home.

‘I just couldn’t stop until we finished. It just tore at my soul. We had to bring him home, that was it,’ Lamm said. 

On an unrelated trip over Memorial Day 2023, Lamm and Schacter led a delegation of 60 others to become the first Jews to visit Baskind in 79 years.

Baskind’s great-niece, Samantha Baskind, a professor of art history and Holocaust studies at Cleveland University, pleaded with German Brigadier Gen. Dirk Backen to exhume his body. 

‘Knowing that he’s been buried in a German cemetery, so far from home and under a cross is a jagged scar for my family,’ Samantha told The Post.

The Volksbund, in conjunction with private researchers and Operation Benjamin were finally able to exhume the remains from the mass grave in December.

On May 29, he was transferred to the custody of the 21st Theater Sustainment mortuary affairs team and will be laid to rest later this year

On May 29, he was transferred to the custody of the 21st Theater Sustainment mortuary affairs team and will be laid to rest later this year

‘The grave itself was soaked in water, the dirt was the worst soil condition you could have. The anthropologists were saying you’re not gonna find anything,’ Lamm said.

‘At every stage our chances of success get lower and lower and lower. It was looking very bleak, very depressing.’

By February 2024, researchers confirmed they had isolated and identified Baskind’s remains. 

On May 29, he transferred to the custody of the 21st Theater Sustainment mortuary affairs team and will be taken to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, where he will be laid to rest later this year.

‘The recovery of my great uncle, is almost surreal, it brings a measure of long-awaited solace to my family,’ Samantha said.



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