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VA initiates process to remove headstones with Nazi symbols

VA initiates process to remove headstones with Nazi symbols
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The Veterans Affairs Department will initiate a process to remove three tomb stones from cemeteries operated by the agency that carry swastikas and other Nazi symbols.

The gravestones in question mark the unclaimed remains of German prisoners of war in two army cemeteries that the VA administers. 

“Americans must always remember the horror of the Nazi regime and why so many Americans sacrificed so much to free the world from its reign of terror,” VA Secretary Robert WilkieRobert WilkieBiden's nominee for VA secretary isn't a veteran — does it matter? Biden VA pick faces 'steep learning curve' at massive agency Two headstones with swastikas removed from Texas veterans cemetery MORE said in a statement released Monday.

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“It is understandably upsetting to our Veterans and their families to see Nazi inscriptions near those who gave their lives for this nation. That’s why VA will initiate the process required to replace these POW headstones,” he added.

One of the tombstones in Salt Lake City's Fort Douglas Post Cemetery features a swastika and a Knight’s Cross with oak leaves.

The other two, located at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas, include an iron cross and swastika, as well as an engraving referencing Adolf Hitler that reads, “He died far from his home for the Führer, people and fatherland.”

The VA said it would seek to preserve the grave stones in its National Cemetery Administration History Collection, and install interpretive signs "to provide historical context about how non-U.S. service members from World War I and World War II were interred and buried on American soil."

The decision to initiate the legal process of removing the headstones came just days after prominent Democrats pressed Wilkie on the issue at an appropriations hearing.

At the time, Wilkie stopped short of agreeing to replace them, citing concern that doing so would whitewash the past.

"The last thing we need to do is not remind Americans of the horrors of anti-Semitism and the horrors of the Nazi cult," he said at the hearing.

House Appropriations Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzDeSantis threatens to divert vaccines from communities criticizing distribution Lobbying world Democrats urge Biden FDA to drop in-person rule for abortion pill MORE (D-Fla.) welcomed the VA statement and said she would "eagerly monitor" progress on the proceedings.
 
"VA’s initial decision to leave the gravestones in place was callous and irresponsible, but today’s decision is an honorable move in the right direction," Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.

"I will eagerly monitor how VA moves forward with this process, including how they choose to provide historical context to enemy prisoners of war buried in U.S. Veterans cemeteries," she added.
 
-- Updated at 1:14 p.m.