ARLINGTON, Va. -- The family and friends of Willis Carto, one of the United States’ most prominent Nazi sympathizers, laid him to rest in Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday.
Carto, who died at age 89 in October, was wounded as an Army soldier in the Philippines during World War II, earning him a Purple Heart medal.
Purple Heart recipients are among those veterans and family members of veterans who may be interred at Arlington's military burial site -- as long as they were subsequently honorably discharged, and not convicted of a state or federal crime.
The Huffington Post reported on a request to bury Carto in Arlington in November. Jennifer Lynch, a spokeswoman for the cemetery, said at the time that a person’s political views did not have any bearing on their eligibility for burial.
The military funeral Carto received on Wednesday arguably tests the limits of those standards in light of his career as an anti-Semitic hatemonger, Holocaust denier and white supremacist thought leader.
After World War II, Carto even renounced the cause for which he'd fought.
"Hitler's defeat was the defeat of Europe. And of America," Carto wrote in a letter published in 1966.
Through a number of initiatives -- including the Liberty Lobby, a white supremacist organization Carto founded, and the Institute for Historical Review, a group he started to promote Holocaust denial -- Carto enjoyed influence among a marginal but significant population of American bigots especially motivated by anti-Jewish hysteria.
At the height of the Liberty Lobby’s popularity in the 1980s, there were 400,000 subscribers to its newsletter, according an obituary for Carto in The New York Times.
Todd Blodgett, who managed advertising for the Liberty Lobby and spied on Carto for the FBI from 2000 to 2002, said the deceased anti-Semitic leader wanted to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery because of the “irony,” given his pro-Nazi views.
"He was laughing about it: 'I’m probably America’s biggest Hitler fan, but I'll be buried alongside all these World War II vets,’” Blodgett told HuffPost in November.
Some two dozen people gathered Wednesday afternoon in the cemetery’s administrative building to mourn Carto in a memorial room. They then formed a caravan of cars to inter Carto on the cemetery’s grounds.
One mourner, who refused to give his name, said he wants Carto to be remembered “as a hero, because he was. He fought for freedom from oppression.”
"He stood up for the best interests of this country and against all the special interests, who would like to see us submerged into this polyglot, one-world -- whatever you want to call it." Joel, a mourner at Willis Carto's funeral
Another mourner, who identified himself only as Joel and said he knew Carto personally, described him as a “great man.”
“He stood up for the best interests of this country and against all the special interests, who would like to see us submerged into this polyglot, one-world -- whatever you want to call it,” Joel said.
He then confirmed that the “special interests” were the Jews.
“Of course," he said. "Who else?"
Joel dismissed the idea that some people might take exception to his views.
“I don’t care if they find it offensive,” he said. “They are going to be a lot more offended when the counterrevolution comes.”
Joel then climbed into a red pickup truck festooned with far-right bumper stickers, including one for “Infowars,” the website of radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Ironically, while people gathered to remember Carto on one floor of the cemetery’s administrative building, right above them, a much larger crowd was memorializing Dorothy Goldstein, the recently deceased wife of a retired career Army officer. Goldstein was Jewish.
One mourner, a retired career Army officer who was a classmate of Goldstein’s husband at West Point, said it “disappointed” him to learn that a famous Nazi sympathizer was being memorialized in the same building as his friend.
But the man, who refused to provide his name, did not dispute Carto’s right to receive a burial there.
“What people do politically after they serve in the military is up to them,” the man said. “Apparently he earned his right to be buried here.”
"It is unfortunate that someone with Carto’s views gets to be buried in our national cemetery, but if he meets the criteria there is not much that can be done." Marilyn Mayo, spokeswoman for the Anti-Defamation League
The Anti-Defamation League, a national anti-Semitism watchdog, expressed a similar sentiment.
“It is unfortunate that someone with Carto’s views gets to be buried in our national cemetery, but if he meets the criteria there is not much that can be done,” said Marilyn Mayo, a spokeswoman for the Anti-Defamation League. “The government cannot be tasked with whether or not to bury someone based on their ideology.”
However, Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Holocaust research and awareness organization, called Carto’s burial in Arlington National Cemetery a “national disgrace.”
“For a person who supported a man responsible for the greatest mass murder in the history of mankind to be buried in the sacred ground where service members who fought to do everything to defeat this man, it profanes the cemetery,” Hier said.
“If Hitler had won the war, defeating first Britain and then the United States, Willis Carto would have been a perfect candidate to be a cabinet member in Hitler’s government,” he added.
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