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Lawmakers call on VA to remove swastikas from headstones in veterans cemeteries

Lawmakers call on VA to remove swastikas from headstones in veterans cemeteries
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A bipartisan group of representatives called on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to replace or alter three headstones at two cemeteries featuring swastikas or pro-Nazi messages.

The headstones, found at two graves in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio and a third at Salt Lake City’s Fort Douglas Post Cemetery, mark the remains of German prisoners of war.

The Texas graves feature an iron cross and swastika, along with the epitaph “He died far from his home for the Führer, people and fatherland,” while the one in Utah includes a swastika and a Knight’s cross with oak leaves.

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"Allowing these gravestones with symbols and messages of hatred, racism, intolerance, and genocide is especially offensive to all the veterans who risked, and often lost, their lives defending this country and our way of life," the letter to Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie says.

"It is also a stain on the hallowed ground where so many veterans and their families are laid to rest. Families who visit their loved ones, who are buried in the same cemeteries with the Nazi soldiers whom they fought against, should never have to confront symbols of hatred that are antithetical to our American values."

Signers of the letter include House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweySpending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight GSA offers to brief Congress next week on presidential transition Biden aide: First Cabinet picks will be announced Tuesday, GSA holdup preventing background checks MORE (D-N.Y.) and ranking member Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerGOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Bottom line GOP women's group rolls out six-figure campaign for Ernst MORE (R-Texas), as well as Reps. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzOn The Money: Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | JPMorgan: Economy will shrink in first quarter due to COVID-19 spike OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats push Biden to pick Haaland as next Interior secretary | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | Wasserman Schultz pitches climate plan in race to chair Appropriations Wasserman Schultz pitches climate plan in race to chair Appropriations MORE (D-Fla.) and John CarterJohn Rice CarterGOP's Carter fends off challenge in Texas Cook Political Report shifts 8 more House races toward Democrats Biden, Democrats see late opportunity in Texas MORE (R-Texas), the chairwoman and ranking member of the Appropriations subcommittee on military construction and Veterans Affairs. 

While the graves are decades old, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation recently raised alarm over them, with founder and president Mikey Weinstein, an Air Force Veteran, saying a senior military officer informed the organization of the graves at Fort Sam Houston after visiting the graves of family members.

"In light of the shocking and inexcusable existence of these Nazi-adorned gravesites in V.A. National Cemeteries, MRFF demands that Secretary Wilkie issue an immediate and heartfelt apology to all United States veterans and their families," Weinstein said in a statement issued earlier this month.

The Hill has reached out to the VA for comment.