Officials at the Department have so far rejected the calls, saying that they have a ‘duty’ to preserve the historic markers, the Military Times reported on Wednesday.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is facing calls to remove swastikas and other Nazi-era symbols engraved on the tombstones of three German soldiers at two military cemeteries in Utah and Texas.
Officials at the Department have so far rejected the calls, saying that they have a “duty” to preserve the historic markers, the Military Times reported on Wednesday.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) — an advocacy group focused on service-related First Amendment issues — has countered that the continued presence of the offensive symbols alongside the resting place of American veterans was “shocking and inexcusable.” The group is demanding a public apology from top VA officials.
“Secretary Robert Wilkie must immediately replace the gravestones of all German military personnel interred in VA national cemeteries so that absolutely no Nazi-era symbols will ever again be allowed to appear on such gravestones,” said Mikey Weinstein, chair of the MRFF.
At issue are three grave sites at two cemeteries maintained by the VA: Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in Texas and Fort Douglas Post Cemetery in Utah. Both were used to inter dozens of unclaimed remains of enemy troops following World War II.
While most of the foreign troops’ grave markers list only names and dates of death, the three in question are also engraved with a swastika in the center of an iron cross alongside an inscription in German, which reads, “He died far from his home for the Führer, people and fatherland.”
VA officials told the Military Times in a statement that the headstones dated back to the 1940s. Army officials oversaw both cemeteries at the time and approved the inscriptions and inclusion of the swastika.