“It is deeply troubling and terribly offensive that swastika-adorned headstones that include messages honoring Hitler continue to stand in this nation’s Veterans Administration National Cemeteries,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said Friday in a statement. “The VA’s decision to leave the swastika’s in place, as well as the messages honoring Hitler, while ignoring calls to take the headstones down is callous, irresponsible and unacceptable – and comes at a time when documented antisemitic incidents in the United States have reached a new high.”
Wasserman Schultz is among the most senior Jewish Democrats in Congress and for a number of years chaired the Democratic National Committee.
Earlier this week, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation called on Veterans Affairs to replace the headstones on the graves of German prisoners of war who died in U.S. internment camps during World War II. Two are in a San Antonio cemetery and another is in Salt Lake City.
In addition to the swastikas, the tombstones include the phrase “He died far from his home for the Führer, people, and fatherland.” Führer was the title Adolf Hitler assumed for himself.
In response, a VA spokesman cited an agency policy “to protect historic resources, including those that recognize divisive historical figures or events.”
“I call on the VA to eliminate this antiquated policy and immediately replace these inappropriate and insensitive headstones,” Wasserman Schultz said.
Organizations backing the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s call include B’nai B’rith International, the American Jewish Committee and the Southern Poverty Law Center.