IN PICTURES – 80 years after his death, a Jewish American soldier buried in the Colleville-sur-Mer cemetery

The error is unprecedented in the history of the memory of soldiers of the Second World War. Never have the remains of an American fighter who landed in June 1944 been found, by mistake, in a German cemetery. This Sunday, June 23, 2024, at the Colleville-sur-Mer cemetery, theFirst Lieutenant Nathan B. Baskind was buried, 80 years after his deathalongside his comrades in combat.

When the hearse arrives, only the birds dare to make noise. The audience is standing, moved. Dozens of meters away, a crowd of onlookers gathered behind barriers. The coffin covered by the star-spangled banner comes out of the vehicle. A precise, military choreography leaving no room for improvisation. The moment is too important and the word is weak.

The casket of Nathan B. Baskind was carried by a delegation of American soldiers from different branches of the army. © Radio France
Leni Flouvat

Discovering the error

It must be said that in 80 years, only 27 missing soldiers were finally found… 27 out of more than 9,000 tombs, Latin crosses and Stars of David combined. The event is therefore rare and the story behind it is even more special. In 2023, a man researching Jewish soldiers comes across something disturbing. The name of Nathan B. Baskind is at the same time registered in the German databases of Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge (VDK) and on the wall of the missing in the American cemetery ofABMC.

Neither one, nor two, the man warns the Jewish memory association Operation Benjamin. It took a year of research, analysis, exchanges to find the soldier in a mass grave in the German cemetery of Marigny (Manche), recover his bones and transfer them to his final resting place. It’s about finishing writing a story. Arriving on June 6, 1944 in Normandy, Nathan B. Baskind fought in the Utah Beach sector before being wounded and dying during the Battle of Cherbourg, the month of his arrival. The end of this story could only lead him here, under this white marble tomb.

It’s about finishing writing a story. Arriving on June 6, 1944 in Normandy, Nathan B. Baskind fought in the Utah Beach sector before being injured and dying during the Battle of Cherbourg, the month of his arrival. The end of this story could only lead him here, under this white marble tomb.

The cemetery, managed by the ABMC (American Battle Monuments Commission), therefore has 9,389 tombs including 151 stars of David.
The cemetery, managed by the ABMC (American Battle Monuments Commission), therefore has 9,389 tombs including 151 stars of David. © Radio France
Leni Flouvat
Facing the ceremony guests is the portrait of First Lieutenant Nathan B. Baskind.
Facing the ceremony guests is the portrait of First Lieutenant Nathan B. Baskind. © Radio France
Leni Flouvat

The emotion of those close to him

At the microphone, in front of the small wooden lectern, the various representatives of the organizations deliver speeches. When the turn of Dr. Samantha Baskind, the grandniece of the first lieutenant, comes, the voice coming out of the speakers is shaky. The specialist in Jewish art history has been waiting for this moment for a year. “It’s an extremely emotional day. It exceeded my expectations. My voice was hoarse, but I held it together. I did it for my great-uncle Nate.”

With red eyes, Shalom Lamm, the co-founder of Operation Benjamin (Jewish memorial association), ended his speech by addressing Nathan B. Baskind directly. For the manager, it is the end of a long research journey. I would like to thank everyone who made it possible to implement what we are experiencing today. There were so many people from countries, backgrounds, religions who worked on this story.”confides the head of the association.

Nathan B. Baskind therefore became, this Sunday in June 2024, the 9,839 soldiers buried in Colleville-sur-Mer.

A little over a hundred people gathered. Members of the family, the Opération Benjamin association and members of the authorities.
A little over a hundred people gathered. Members of the family, the Opération Benjamin association and members of the authorities. © Radio France
Leni Flouvat
Great-niece Dr. Samantha Baskind placed the rosette on the Wall of the Missing, indicating that the soldier had been found.
Great-niece Dr. Samantha Baskind placed the rosette on the Wall of the Missing, indicating that the soldier had been found. © Radio France
Leni Flouvat
The grave of Nathan B. Baskind, of Jewish faith, was installed in square A of the Colleville-sur-Mer cemetery.
The grave of Nathan B. Baskind, of Jewish faith, was installed in square A of the Colleville-sur-Mer cemetery. © Radio France
Leni Flouvat
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