SAN ANTONIO – Two German WWII graves bearing a Nazi swastika are removed from Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery and replaced with new tombstones.
The pair of tombstones has become a long-running debate over whether they are historical artifacts worth preserving or are symbols of hate that should be destroyed, according to San Antonio Express News.
Cemetery director Aubrey David led several workers to the graves of German prisoners of war Alfred B. Kafka and George Forrest at about 8:15 am Wednesday.
Tombstones showed a modified iron cross depicting a square cross inside a cross. It also has the inscription “He died far from home for the Führer, the people and the country”.
Michael L. Mickey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which advocates against unwanted proselytizing: “It clearly took a long time to happen, and it’s clearly the right thing to do” in the armed forces.
After learning of tombstones last May, the foundation called on Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilk to remove them. The group also wanted Wilk to provide an “immediate and sincere apology to all US veterans and their families.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs has refused, saying it has a responsibility to preserve “historical resources,” even if it acknowledges divisive historical figures or events. But members of Congress, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Representatives Will Heard of San Antonio and Cay Granger of Fort Worth, responded by demanding that tombstones be removed.
“I am happy that the tombstones have been replaced,” said Representative Joaquin Castro. “It is paradoxical to believe that the symbols of the Third Reich and the Nazi regime will stand in an American military cemetery.”
It is unclear if a third gravestone, also bearing Nazi symbols, was removed at Fort Douglas Post Cemetery in Utah.