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Tags: veteran | WWII | swastika | nazi | cemetery | POW

Veteran Wants Swastikas Removed From Three Military Gravestones

the department of veteran affairs sign is shown on the side of the building

By    |   Monday, 25 May 2020 03:04 PM EDT

A military activist wants to see three military gravestones embossed with swastikas replaced, The Wall Street Journal reports. 

The gravestones that feature the Nazi symbol date back to World War II. They are located in military cemeteries in Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio and Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

At Fort Sam Houston two German soldiers are buried. The gravestones are made out of white stone, but feature the German Iron Cross with a swastika in the middle and an inscription, “He died far from his home for the Führer, people and fatherland.”

“I had no idea that enemy combatants from Axis powers were buried in veterans national cemeteries,” Mikey Weinstein, who runs the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, told the newspaper.

The Jewish Air Force veteran suggested changing the headstone and not displaying the swastika.

But top officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which maintains more than 4 million gravesites, say historical preservation laws prevent them from removing the Nazi symbol or quote praising Hitler. 

“We have no plans to change the posture of previous administrations by disturbing those gravesites,” VA spokesman Timothy Nosal told The Wall Street Journal. 

The VA decision was based on precedent as well as the Hague Regulations, Geneva Conventions and U.S. law requiring preservation of historical markers. Enemy prisoners of war are entitled to be buried with full honors due them.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D., Fla., sent VA Secretary Robert Wilkie a letter Monday demanding the gravestones be changed, the newspaper reports. 

Senior historian at the National WWII Museum Rob Citino said the headstones should be replaced and Nazi symbols should be removed. 

“Nobody’s talking about desecrating a grave here,” he said. “They’re talking about replacing a gravestone.”

But some say keeping the headstones is an important reminder of history. 

Ron Robin, president of the University of Haifa in Israel, said it would be a mistake to remove the headstones.

“Using symbols of hate is absolutely the wrong thing to do under normal circumstances, but this is a historical artifact,” Robin said. “There are ways to explain the context rather than eliminate the historical reality.”

Experts say the Iron Cross is a representation of the German military Iron Cross award, not a nod to the Nazi party. Some say the award may have been given to the POWs before they were captured by U.S. forces, according to historians and the Army’s records.

“According to military protocol they would have been buried with the regalia accorded at the time,” said historian David Fiedler.

At Fort Douglas in Utah, the gravestone of soldier Paul Eiler is made of dark stone and doesn’t have an inscription to Führer and fatherland, but it does have a carving of the Iron Cross award with a swastika in the center. In 1944, when he died, his fellow captives combined their money to buy a headstone with a carving of the Iron Cross award he had earned during his service in the war. Army records indicate the design was approved. 

Norman Rosenshein, an Army veteran and former national commander of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA, said the current headstones should be placed in storage.

“It’s a no-brainer,” he said. “Replace it with the modern Iron Cross.”

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A military activist wants to see three military gravestones embossed with swastikas replaced, The Wall Street Journal reports. 
veteran, WWII, swastika, nazi, cemetery, POW
Monday, 25 May 2020 03:04 PM
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