Uncle sparks search for WWI soldiers


TORONTO, March 14 (JTA) – A prosecutor who heads New York state’s investigation into the fate of Holocaust victims’ assets held in Swiss banks is attempting to compile the first list of the roughly 3,000 American Jewish soldiers killed during World War I.

Irwin Nack, the Investigative Counsel for the New York State Banking Department, said he embarked on the unrelated project after extensive research led him to the gravesite of his great uncle, David Levene, an American soldier killed during World War I.

“I was astounded by the fact that in the immediate vicinity of his grave were no less than 14 other soldiers,” Nack said. “All of them were Jewish Americans who had died in World War I and whose remains were transferred back to the United States for burial in a private Jewish cemetery.”

Because most or all had died unmarried with no descendants, the graves are neglected, Nack said.

Several of the headstones have been vandalized, and two are “almost unreadable and on the verge of collapse.”

“I find this state to affairs to be particularly disturbing in light of the sacrifices made by these men. It was clear that they and their deeds have been all but forgotten.”

The National Museum of American Jewish Military History, located in Washington, does not have a comprehensive list of American Jews killed in World War I. Neither does the Jewish War Veterans of America.

“Sure, we’d like to have such a list,” said Herb Rosenbleeth, the national executive director of the Jewish veterans’ group.

Nack requests anyone with knowledge of an American Jewish soldier killed in World War I to send him the following details: the soldier’s full name, home state, regiment, date of death, burial location and other relevant information.

He intends to make the completed list available to researchers at the National Museum of American Jewish Military History and other institutions.

Nack’s e-mail address is inack@ix.netcom.com.

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