(June 2, 2020 / JNS) Gravestones inscribed with swastikas and messages referencing Hitler will be removed from military cemeteries, announced U.S. Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie on Monday.
“It is understandably upsetting to our veterans and their families to see Nazi inscriptions near those who gave their lives for this nation,” said Wilkie in a statement. “That’s why VA will initiate the process required to replace these POW headstones.”
The inscriptions were found at VA cemeteries in Texas and Utah on graves of German prisoners of war.
Initially, the VA refused to remove the inscriptions, but agreed to do so following backlash from U.S. lawmakers and others.
U.S. House Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) was one of the lawmakers calling for the removals and applauded the VA’s decision to reverse course.
“The families of soldiers who fought against intolerance and hatred must never be forced to confront glorification of those very ideologies when visiting their loved ones,” she said in a statement. “VA’s initial decision to leave the gravestones in place was callous and irresponsible, but [Monday’s] decision is an honorable move in the right direction.”
Wasserman Schultz noted that she “will eagerly monitor how [the] 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. We must make sure we don’t erect totems to intolerance, allowing their history to be studied without causing pain for those most affected by it.”
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