Article in the Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2020

Dear Mr. Weinstein:
I read the article about the POW Graves with Swastikas with interest.   I also spent a lot time reviewing your website with interest.    Special kudos to you.
I am of German-Jewish ancestry, whose Jewishness was kept hidden for obvious reasons.   After this was uncovered/discovered, I later converted to Judaism.
I will admit that the initial “spell” wore off,  I only attended services 3 or 4 days per year, thus I am otherwise not observant.   I was in the Air Force Reserve for a number of years, did not retire, but achieved the rank of E-7.
Now that we have the introduction out of the way, if you would allow me I would like to give you my perspective on this.
First, on the use, rather misuse of the Swastika by the Nazi’s.    The Swastika, actually, the counter clockwise version is a both a religious symbol used in the Hindu and Buddhist religions as well as symbol peace and good luck.    It was hijacked by the Nazi Government of Germany  from 1933-1945 as a symbol of  genocide and hate.     However, since you are an educated man and an attorney, you are already aware of this.   In a Hindu Yantra, you will see inverted joined triangles which resemble a Magen David next to a Swastika.
The local Chabad Rabbi and I had a lengthy discussion of the history of the use of various symbols and their meanings.      In Glendale, Calfornia, there were a number of street lamps with a band of reverse swastikas all over them  installed all over long before 1933.   Some well meaning, but seemingly “fringe” Jewish groups were making a fuss about it, not realizing the history of it, and still demanding that the (backward facing) swastika street lamps be removed.      Attempts to explain that they had nothing remotely connected to the atrocities of World War II fell on deaf ears.
I work with the elderly and I happened to come across of an original birth certificate in the papers of a person.    It had a tax stamp resembling postage stamp with a swastika on it.    We looked it over, while it was unsettling, it nevertheless, it was a governmental document in use at the time.  This person other than the birth certificate was never associated with any activities of hate.
Now to issue of the POW Graves.    The US Government certainly DID show and continues to show a tremendous amount of respect to the POW’s who were in our custody at that time.   I cannot imagine the Nazi’s doing the same for American POWs, but I don’t know.
In modern Germany, the use of the Swastika, outside of very limited exceptions is illegal, and is a criminal offense  (Section 86a of the Criminal Code).   I wonder how they would view these headstones in their cemeteries.  Perhaps with one eye open, and one eye closed.
I am not going to take any position either way as to use of Iron Cross etc. on the head stones.   I recognize that are both sides to the debate, and call me a wuss, I just do not have strong feelings either way.  However,  I DO however, find the tributes to the “Fuhrer and the Fatherland” out of place in a US National Cemetery, I just don’t know what they were thinking at the time.
From the website, I found your work to be admirable, and truly wish you the best.
Respectfully,
(name withheld)

Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Martin France
On May 28, 2020, at 7:08 AM, Martin France  wrote:

 

Dear (name withheld),
I occasionally answer emails sent to Mikey and the MRFF as part of my role on the MRFF Advisory Board.  First, I’d like to thank you so much for your thoughtful letter–it’s a welcome rarity among the toxic hate mail we routinely see.  You cite many of the issues that we have highlighted throughout this whole process in a logical and informed manner.
Our position is similar to yours–we think that the words and symbols on the graves are out of place in a US Veterans’ Cemetery.  We think the solution is simple and consistent AND respectful:  replace the headstones with something that omits the swastika and “Fuhrer” text per what can be found in German military cemeteries in France, Belgium, and Luxembourg (or Germany) where there may be “Iron Cross” style headstones, but no swastikas and no words of dedication to that terrible regime.
You are also correct in citing the historical basis for the swastika and, having traveled somewhat in South Asia, Tibet, China, and Mongolia, I’ve seen the “other direction” symbol on Buddhist and Hindu Temples and recognized it for what it was.  You can rest assured that if some group ignorant of that symbol acted to deface a temple or the appropriate use of this symbol in a religious setting, the MRFF would be there to defend and support the victims of these misdeeds.
So, thanks for your note.  We appreciate your support and look forward to your opinions and ideas as (sadly) we face and fight more religious bigotry throughout the US military and veterans’ communities.
Sincerely,
Marty France, PhD
Brigadier General, USAF (Retired)
MRFF Advisory Board Member

Response from MRFF Board Member John Compere
On May 28, 2020, at 7:01 AM, John Compere  wrote:

 

(name withheld),
 
First & foremost, thank you for your past military service.
 
The Foundation also acknowledges & appreciates your rational, reasonable & respectful response to this current controversy.
 
Most Sincerely,
Brigadier General John Compere, US Army (Retired)
Disabled American Veteran (Vietnam Era)
Board Member, Military Religious Freedom Foundation

Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell

On May 29, 2020, at 9:13 PM, Mike  wrote:

Dear (name withheld),
Thank you for your message and your words of support for the work of the MRFF.
Your personal history, while of course not unique, is nonetheless remarkable and your journey admirable.Your
work with the elderly is appreciated, I’m sure, and says a lot about you.
Your information about the history of the swastika is interesting, though I think most of it has faded with the ages, and
its use or abuse by the Nazis is the association to which it is universally attached today.
Again, we appreciate your message and deeply appreciate your support.
Best,
Mike Farrell
(MRFF Board of Advisors)

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