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The Tragedy and Triumph of History


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2LT Nathan Baskind

circa 1944

Lieutenant Nathan Baskind, of Pittsburgh, PA, came ashore on Utah Beach on D-Day with the 899th Tank Destroyer Battalion.  Engaged in fierce battle, he went ahead of his troops to reconnoiter their position in the Battle of Cherbourg June 23, 1944.  He was never heard from again.  His name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the Normandy American Cemetery.


A search of contemporaneous German war records revealed that Baskind was ambushed and shot, taken prisoner by the German army, and sent to a Luftwaffe field hospital.  Later on the 23rd, the German position was attacked by US forces and in what is presumed to be a single or several large explosions, Nathan Baskind and 23 German soldiers were killed.  The explosion being intense, separation of the bodies was impossible, and all were buried in a mass grave.  


After the war, this mass grave and an additional one totaling 52 soldiers were combined and moved to the Marigny (Normandie) German War Graves Cemetery, 12 km from Utah Beach.  

An attempt by American Grave Registration Service to separate the human remains of Lieutenant Baskind in 1957 failed, although his unit patch, lieutenant bars and dog tag were recovered.  Because they were unable to make a definitive positive identification, Baskind’s family were never told of the strong circumstantial evidence of his burial in Marigny.  


In 2023, Operation Benjamin (OB), an NGO that identifies Jewish American WWI and WWII soldiers mistakenly buried under Latin Crosses, learned of the potential location of Nathan Baskind. 

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Mass grave in Marigny (Normandie) German

War Graves Cemetery

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 First visit to 1LT Nathan Baskind May 2023

The Ambassador reached out to the German War Graves Commission (Volksbund).  The Volksbund had been aware for some time from the PFC Lawrence Gordon Foundation that Baskind was very likely in the mass grave.  But when the historically profound fact of Baskind’s Jewish heritage was brought to their attention by OB, and when they viewed a video prepared by OB and presented in Berlin that showed Professor Baskind urging them to repatriate her great uncle, they took the extraordinary decision to exhume the mass grave at Marigny in search of one German soldier whose family has been searching for their father and was believed to be in the mass grave, and to search for Lt. Baskind.  


Given the delicate nature and historical significance of this search, leading Rabbis in Israel and the US were consulted about the propriety of the effort and gave their approval within certain Jewish law parameters.  


Seemingly against all odds, given the nature of the explosions, nature of the soil and conditions of the bones, human remains were discovered with an extraordinarily high-level DNA match to Nathan Baskind. 



He has been found. 

The historical and poetic burial of this D-Day soldier at the Normandy American Cemetery, with full military honors on the 80th anniversary of his death, June 23, 2024, will symbolize the extraordinary political and humanitarian reconciliation of nations in a tumultuous world. 

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A promise - We will never forget you

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Anthropologists at the Exhumation – December 19, 2023

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