Note: we are republishing this story amid record high levels of political division in America. According to Pew surveys, the US ranks among the highest in the world according to how many people feel more divided than before the pandemic. More on this here: https://www.latimes.com/politics/newsletter/2021-10-15/us-most-divided-nation-in-worldwide-survey-essential-politics
Decades after WWII, two gravestones in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery have become the cause of intense outrage after swastikas were discovered on them.
Rabbi Chaim Block, executive director of the Chabad Center for Jewish Life & Learning in San Antonio, stated that many groups were outraged by the swastikas drawn on the gravestones of two German prisoners of war who passed away in 1943.
He said, "Which are a symbol, a quintessential symbol of hate and evil, that we went to war against and sacrificed so much. And on this very hallowed ground, there are soldiers that lost their lives and dedicated to eradicating this very evil."
Similar headstones were discovered in Utah.
A number of groups have called on the VA to remove the symbols. The Jewish Federation of San Antonio maintained that the presence of the swastikas and the messages on the gravestones was a dishonor to soldiers and the U.S. military.
The Director of the Community Relations Council stated: "We made a request through the Veterans Administration website that the swastikas and the message be removed from the gravestones. Swastikas are representations of the Nazi regime, a regime that murdered eleven million innocent people, including 6 million Jews."
Rabbi Block stated that while he understood the sacredness of these gravestones, something had to be done.
"When you come across a swastika with a statement 'Die far from home fighting for the Führer,' in an American cemetery and no one does anything about it, or the VA doesn't do anything about it, that is not consistent with our values and with America stands for. It is not okay to do nothing anymore," he said.
Veterans Administration sent the following statement to KENS 5:
“VA is aware of two headstones at Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery that includes these symbols. The cemetery was under the control of the Army when these interments occurred in the 1940s. The Ft. Sam Houston cemetery was subsequently transferred to VA’s National Cemetery Administration in 1973. Headstones of enemy combatants stand only in cemeteries where enemy combatants are buried, and we have no plans to disturb those gravesites.”