July-August 2020 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

Officials at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have agreed to remove Nazi-era imagery from three headstones in national cemeteries in the wake of complaints from a civil liberties group.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) raised the issue in May after one of its supporters saw two of the headstones at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas. (The other headstone is located at Fort Douglas Post Cemetery in Salt Lake City.)

The headstones mark the graves of German prisoners of war who died while being held in American camps. One depicted an Iron Cross, a German military decoration for valor. The other two showed modified Iron Crosses accompanied by swastikas. One of the headstones contained an inscription that read (in German), “He died far from his home for the Führer, people and fatherland.”

VA officials at first said they would not remove the headstones but changed course as pressure mounted. A bipartisan group of members of Congress also called for the headstones to be removed.

MRFF President Mikey Weinstein welcomed the decision, which Americans United supported.

“MRFF advocates moving these Nazi headstones to the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., where an appropriate educational display can be erected explaining the salient particulars as to how and why those Nazi headstones are on display there,” Weinstein said in a statement.