(JNS) U.S. House Appropriations Committee chair Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and ranking member Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), sent a bipartisan request to U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie on Monday, May 25, urging that all gravestones inscribed with swastikas and messages honoring Hitler be removed from military cemeteries. U.S. House Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and the subcommittee’s ranking member, John Carter (R-Texas), also signed the letter calling for the removal of the words, which were found in VA cemeteries in Texas and Utah on graves of German prisoners of war.
“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,” wrote the members of Congress. “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.”
The bipartisan group also wrote that the VA’s “decision to leave the swastikas and messages honoring Hitler in place and ignore the calls to take them down is callous, irresponsible and unacceptable.”
The VA’s claims they cannot replace these headstones because the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires federal agencies to protect historic resources. However, the letter said, “That law protects resources of extreme historical significance for, as the statutory text states, ‘the inspiration and benefit of present and future generations.’ We should certainly all agree that honoring Hitler on the headstones of German soldiers who took up arms against the United States is not in line with the law’s intent.”
In a statement to JNS, the VA said, “Headstones of enemy prisoners of war stand only in cemeteries where enemy POWs are buried, and we have no plans to change the posture of previous administrations by disturbing those gravesites.”
Main Photo: Two undated photos of POW gravestones vandalized with swastikas at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas. Photo by Military Religious Freedom Foundation via JNS.org