Josef Stalin’s bust remains at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia despite mounting criticism. A chorus of voices is asking what Stalin had to do with D-Day, and why a mass murderer is being honored at all.
The National D-Day Memorial officially opened in June 2001. Congress authorized the small town of Bedford as the site of the memorial because it proportionally suffered the severest D-Day losses. Nineteen soldiers from Bedford’s town of about 3,200 died on D-Day.
On June 2 of this year, Stalin joined the existing busts of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, President Harry S. Truman and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The weekend after Stalin’s bust was installed, the memorial commemorated the 66th anniversary of D-Day. Critics immediately asserted that the bust disrespects the others honored at the memorial as well as the victims and the their families of the Soviet Union dictator.
One Washington, DC- area critic noted his own family suffered grave losses at the hands of Stalin. In a letter last month to William McIntosh, who was then Memorial president, he described the plight of his wife’s family:
In July 1945 most of the young men of her hometown in Moletai, Lithuania were tricked into a false amnesty by the Soviets, then executed by the NKVD (predecessor of the KGB). Her two uncles were fortunate enough to be in the forest at the time. It took two months for the NKVD to hunt them down, then one morning their mother (my wife’s grandmother) found them brutally murdered in the forest. In 1948 my wife’s family was shipped to Siberia where many people died in the miserable conditions of the cattle cars on the arduous trip. They spent 10 years in Siberia for no crime committed.
These victims were just two of the 20 million killed by Stalin. The letter writer goes on to rightfully demand the bust be taken down immediately:
Tell you what. Why don’t you take this summer and visit all the graves of these people, though many are in mass graves or have no graves, then come back to Virginia and think about whether to keep the statue of Stalin or not.
Better yet, why not remove the Stalin statue now. Or if you really like Stalin, why don’t you move to Gori, Georgia, the home of Stalin. You’ll like it there. They have a large museum of Stalin, venerating him with many statues, you and your statue will fit in perfectly there.
Remove Stalin now or go join Stalin in his hometown.
But not even the residents of Gori, Georgia can stomach Stalin tributes anymore. Last week, authorities tore down the bronze statue of Stalin from its town square. Officials in Georgia say the city parliament’s vote to tear down the statue was driven by pressure from a younger generation that has adopted the values of Western Civilization.
“A memorial to Stalin has no place in the Georgia of the 21st Century,” Georgia President Mikhail Saakashvili said.
And a memorial to Stalin has no place in America in the 21st Century either. What a sad irony? The hometown of one of the most malevolent Communists in the 20th Century has united to remove Stalin’s visage from the public square, while the country mainly credited with the fall of Communism, founded on ideals antithetical to dictatorship and fascism, erects a bust of the same ruthless dictator on its own soil.
McIntosh, who retired a Memorial president this month, said the bust is not meant to honor Stalin, but rather to note Stalin’s role in World War II. “He’s a necessary addition,” McIntosh said in 2009. “He certainly was a fact of life and a major ally during the second World War … There’s nothing about the presentation that’s going to be flattering of Stalin.”
And apparently just to be sure, the Memorial has placed a plaque underneath the Stalin bust that reads:
In memory of the tens of millions who died under Stalin’s rule and in tribute to all whose valor, fidelity, and sacrifice denied him and his successors victory in the cold war.
This schizophrenic tribute underscores the central complaints of the critics, that it is simpy inappropriate to include a bust of a man responsible for the deaths of 20 million people at a memorial commemorating American soldiers, and the fact that Stalin was nowhere near Normandy, France on D-Day.
The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation has started an international petition to remove the statue. As of today, the petition has over 2,000 signatures from all 50 states and 40 countries. Click here to sign the petition.
It does not appear opponents have a friend in the new president of the Memorial, Robin Reed, who assumed his new duties on June 28.
Reed, a native of Richmond, Virginia, spent the past seven years as director of public history at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Previously, Reed served 12 years as the executive director of the Museum and White House of the Confederacy in Richmond.
So far, Reed is supporting McIntosh’s decision to install the statue of Stalin. “At this point in time I certainly am not going to re-evaluate that,” Reed said in a June 22 interview with The Washington Times.