Nazi Headstones Removed from Veterans Cemetery

Two German World War II headstones bearing Nazi swastikas were removed from Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in December of 2020. The headstones marked the graves of German prisoners of war, and had stood in the cemetery since 1947.

The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs National Cemetery Administration honors Veterans and their eligible family members with final resting places in national shrines and with lasting tribute that commemorate their service and sacrifice to the United States of America. Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery was one of the seven national cemeteries established during an expansion of the National Cemetery System between World Wars, specifically in 1934-1939.

Fort Sam Houston was the largest Army post in the United States in 1940 and during World War II it served as a major internment center for prisoners of war. As POW camps across the United States closed after the war, the Army consolidated graves from camp cemeteries and remains were interred permanently at post or federal cemeteries. Fort Sam Houston is one of 23 NCA cemeteries containing the graves of more than a thousand World War enemy POWs.

The headstones that were removed from Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio featured an iron cross with a swastika at its center, along with an inscription in German that reads: “He died far from his home for the Leader (Führer), people and fatherland”. The headstones marked the graves of Pvt. George Forst and Pvt. Alfred P. Kafka, two POWs who died in Texas in 1943. The headstones also included the dates of birth and death of the POWs.

The new headstones do not contain swastikas or the Iron Cross. The organizations who pushed for the removal include: Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America. The pair of headstones had become a long controversy over whether they were historical artifacts worth preserving or emblems of hate that should be destroyed.

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