Initially, the Dept. of Veterans Affairs said it had a “duty” to not tamper with the gravestones.
By World Israel News Staff
With pressure mounting, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will swap out three gravestones marked with swastikas and other Nazi-era symbols.
In a statement on Monday, the VA said it will begin “taking required steps including consultation with stakeholders about how to replace these headstones with historically accurate markers that do not include the Nazi swastika and German text.”
The issue came up in May after the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an advocacy group focused on service-related First Amendment issues, discovered three Nazi emblazoned gravestones at two cemeteries maintained by the VA.
The cemeteries, located in Texas and Utah, were used to bury 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.”
“It is understandably upsetting to our Veterans and their families to see Nazi inscriptions near those who gave their lives for this nation,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said. “That’s why the VA will initiate the process required to replace these POW headstones.”
The VA initially resisted removing the gravestones, telling the Military Times in May that it had a “duty” to not tamper with them because officials at the time of interment gave their approval.