VA Secretary Tells Congress He Won’t Remove Headstones Engraved with Swastikas
This is a bit of a convoluted story, but it is worth reading because what sounded like semi-legal-historical justification falls entirely apart upon close examination, leaving one with the sinking feeling that someone wants this a little too badly.
First, the VA is responsible for keeping veterans’ cemeteries across the nation. There are three graves that involve German prisoners of war from World War II that died in the U.S. while in the United States. The graves are in Utah and San Antonio. The Germans were buried in a section “Z” and the headstones had a swastika and the German iron cross. People rightly complained, wanting the swastikas removed from the cemeteries.
Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie has refused to remove three headstones engraved with swastikas at the graves. Congress asked him about the whole matter. Wilkie offered to make adjustments that put the markers in “historical context.”
Wilkie’s testified before congress about the issue:
“I happen to think that making sure that when people visit our cemeteries they are educated and informed of the horror is an incredibly important thing to do. Erasing these headstones removes them from memory. And as we continue to study the Holocaust, the last thing any Holocaust scholar wants to do is erase that memory.”
In Germany, it is against the law to display a swastika at any place and at any time. Apparently Germany has all the “historical context” and “memory” it needs to appreciate the hatred associated with the swastika. But not the United States, or at least not under the type of people Trump puts in positions of leadership. Robert Wilkie is not a “normal guy” caught upon a firestorm. Wilkie comes from a background that raises a lot of eyebrows, especially in this particular situation.
According to the chairman of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), Mikey Weinstein, a Jewish Air Force vet, and activist, Wilkie has quite a history:
“Let’s be quite clear who this Robert Wilkie person is: Wilkie’s support of these Nazi headstone is not at all surprising. He is a well known and documented advocate of the Civil War Confederacy who has praised Confederate President Jefferson Davis as a ‘martyr’ and an ‘exceptional man in an exceptional age’ while also condemning, in the most ignoble and vicious terms, the abolitionists who opposed slavery as ‘radical,’ ‘mendacious’ and ‘enemies of liberty.’”
Weinstein set out the organization’s position with strong conviction:
“The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) condemns in the harshest terms possible the disgusting, disingenuous and dishonest testimony of VA Secretary Robert Wilkie before members of the United States Congress yesterday regarding the sordid matter of Nazi-adorned headstones at the gravesites of the three German POWs from World War II who are buried at two VA National Cemeteries.”
Why does one get the feeling that this would be an issue only in this administration in front of people like Wilkie? Yes, the graves have been sitting there throughout every administration since the deaths, but it is highly likely that the matter simply wasn’t reported until now. Other administrations would likely easily take care of the situation with the obvious remedy. But it came up during this administration when people have increased awareness about some very disturbing messages coming out of Trump and his administrators.
This shouldn’t be hard, at all. Put them in some museum, or for inspection in a more protected setting.
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