Jewish US soldier buried alongside Nazis for 80 years relocated to Allied cemetery

A Jewish American soldier buried alongside Nazis during World War II has been exhumed and laid to rest alongside his fellow U.S. troops.

Eighty years after his death, the remains of 1st Lt. Nathan B. Baskind were interred Sunday at the Normandy American Cemetery with full military honors and a Star of David grave marker, according to Stars and Stripes.

Baskind, from Pittsburgh, Pa., was reportedly buried in a mass German grave when machine gun fire took his life after Allied forces stormed Normandy in 1944. He landed on Utah Beach on D-Day and led a tank division behind enemy lines in the aftermath of the intense fighting that changed the tide of the war in Europe.

“He will at last rest with his American brothers and sisters in arms who fought alongside him to defeat fascism and restore democracy,” U.S. Consul for Western France Elizabeth Webster said at Sunday’s ceremony.

Baskind and his driver were ambushed on June 23, 1944 at the Battle of Cherbourg while on a reconnaissance mission. His parents reportedly died long ago not knowing the whereabouts of their son, who was drafted into the military in 1942 when he was 26 years old.

Webster called him an “American hero.”

Baskind’s great-niece Samantha Baskind said at Sunday’s ceremony the fallen soldier’s middle initial may have stood for “brother.” She based that theory on her understanding Baskind’s twin sister’s middle name was legally “Sister” because the pair’s Russian-born parents may not have understood the bureaucratic process involved in birth certificates.

After nearly eight decades of laying alongside his enemies, Baskin’s remains began their journey to a proper grave in 2022 when an American genealogist visiting a cemetery for German soldiers saw his surname on a mass grave and contacted Operation Benjamin, which searches for Jewish soldiers given Christian burials in American military cemeteries.

The thousands of bone fragments in Baskind’s grave were reportedly exhumed in December and identified through DNA testing. German soldiers returned those remains to a U.S. airbase in May.

“After 80 years, we finally welcomed 1st Lt. Nathan B. Baskind home,” Operation Benjamin posted on Facebook Monday. “It is an absolute honor to bring closure to the Baskind family after all these years.”

The National World War II Museum in New Orleans reports 550,000 Jews served in the U.S. military during World War II. Nearly 9,400 Americans are buried at the Normandy American Cemetery.