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 LoweyDemocrats sidestep budget deal by seeking 0B in emergency spending New Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Overnight Defense: House Dems offer M for Army to rename bases | Bill takes aim at money for Trump's border wall | Suspect in custody after shooting at Marine training facility  MORE (D-N.Y.) and ranking member Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerOn The Money: Deficit rises to record .7 trillion amid pandemic: CBO | Democrats sidestep budget deal by seeking 0B in emergency spending | House panel advances spending bill with funding boost to IRS House panel advances spending bill with funding boost to IRS The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump backs another T stimulus, urges governors to reopen schools MORE (R-Texas), as well as Reps. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Rodney Davis says most important thing White House can do on COVID-19 is give consistent messaging; US new cases surpass 50k for first time VA initiates process to remove headstones with Nazi symbols Overnight Defense: Trump extends deployment of National Guard troops to aid with coronavirus response | Pentagon considers reducing quarantine to 10 days | Lawmakers push for removal of Nazi headstones from VA cemeteries MORE (D-Fla.) and John CarterJohn Rice CarterDemocrats see victory in Trump culture war George Floyd and the upcoming Texas Democratic Senate runoff Texas Senate candidate swipes at Cruz feud with Ron Perlman: 'I handle my own fights' 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.