At Last, Jewish Soldier Laid to Rest with Dignity

After 80 years of being buried with Nazis, soldier Nathan Baskind was identified using DNA technology and reburied in the Colleville-sur-Mer Cemetery, according to Jewish and, l’havdil, American military traditions.

By Rabbi Shmuel Lubecki –  Rouen, France

Life presents us with various emotions, but the one I experienced last Sunday was truly unique.

The organization “Operation Benjamin,” based in the United States, is dedicated to rehabilitating the graves of American Jewish soldiers buried in France during World War II. A year and a half ago, they received astonishing information that led to a remarkable discovery.

Here’s the story:

During the Normandy landings in June 1944, American soldier Nathan Baskind was sent on a reconnaissance mission near the city of Cherbourg. Unfortunately, he was captured by the Nazis in Cherbourg. That very night, the camp where Nathan was held was bombed. With no trace of him found, Nathan was declared a missing soldier. Tragically, Nathan was accidentally buried with 52 Nazis in a Nazi cemetery.

In December 2022, Operation Benjamin received an update on Nathan. After thorough investigations and DNA tests, Nathan’s body was identified. This process involved extensive effort and consultations with renowned rabbis. Nathan was exhumed from the Nazi cemetery and, this past Sunday, was reburied in the Colleville-sur-Mer American Cemetery, according to American and Jewish traditions.

The soldier’s family traveled specially from the U.S. to attend the ceremony. The emotion during the event was overwhelming. Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, president of the association, delivered a moving speech, declaring, “Finally, Nathan, rest in peace!”

I had the honor of attending this poignant event. Tears streamed from everyone’s eyes as Nathan was finally buried according to Jewish tradition. May his soul be tied to the eternal bond of life.

This experience underscores the importance of ensuring everyone receives a dignified burial according to the Torah. The dedication and effort invested in these final acts of kindness are immeasurable.

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