US military burial ground receives request for Willis Carto, thought to be the Holocaust denier of that name, but says political views are irrelevant to eligibility
By Ellen Brait, The Guardian
Arlington National Cemetery has received a burial request for Willis Carto, thought to be the white supremacist leader and prominent Holocaust denier of that name who died on 26 October at the age of 89, the cemetery confirmed.
Despite his far-right views, Carto may be granted his burial request. Jennifer Lynch, a spokeswoman for the military cemetery in Virginia, said that eligibility for burial at Arlington was based solely on military honors, and that political views do not play a role.
“Political views do not factor into burial eligibility,” Lynch said. “There is a prohibition against those convicted of a state or federal capital crime. That will bar them from being buried here or at another national military cemetery.”
Lynch could not provide details about the burial request beyond the deceased’s name. She could not confirm that the request was made for the white supremacist rather than for another man with the same name, similar date of death, and a military record that would also make him eligible for burial at Arlington.
Carto is eligible for burial at Arlington because he earned the Purple Heart while in the Army. He served in the Philippines during the second world war, according to the New York Times, and was wounded twice.
He was also known for “his antisemitism, anti-black racism and the wild alternative health claims regularly made in his various publications,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the civil rights group.
He founded Liberty Lobby in 1958, a “pressure group for patriotism” that circulated its newsletter to 400,000 people in the 1980s, according to the Times. In 1978, he founded the Institute for Historical review, which questioned whether the Holocaust had occurred.
“Willis has talked to me about playing the role of a respectable conservative when his true feelings are those of a racial nationalist,” Louis T Byers, a right-wing activist and theoretician, told the Washington Post in 1971.
He also openly admired Adolf Hitler, the Times reported, and had four bronze busts of the Nazi leader in his office, which escaped destruction when his workplace was burned to the ground in 1984.
According to Lynch, in order to be eligible for cremated remains to be placed above ground at Arlington – which was requested for Carto – one must take part in active duty for one day and have an honorable discharge. Below-ground burial is more complicated, with length of service, awards received and retirement status playing determining roles.
Arlington receives approximately 75 requests a day and performs up to 30 burials each day. The timeline for a request’s approval or denial varies, according to Lynch. The documentation of Carto’s military service will be provided to Arlington at a later date, after which, they can grant or deny the request. Then they can establish “what kind of resources are required” and “how soon a service can be scheduled”.
If Carto’s request is granted, he will not be the first controversial burial that Arlington has seen. According to history.com, three second world war enemy combatants are buried in the cemetery, two Italian prisoners of war and one German prisoner of war. They died in captivity in Washington DC and, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, were buried at the closest national cemetery.