A prominent anti-Communist group has joined the fight to get a controversial bust of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin removed from the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va.
The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, chaired by the noted conservative author and historian Lee Edwards, contends that Stalin has no business in a memorial dedicated to the memory of the thousands of young men who perished on the beaches of Normandy to liberate Europe from the Nazi jackboot 66 years ago.
“Since the fall of the Soviet Union, statues of Joseph Stalin have been torn down all over Europe and even in the former Soviet Union itself,” Edwards said. “A bust of Joseph Stalin has no place in a memorial whose purpose is to salute the brave soldiers who made D-Day a vital victory in the crusade for freedom.”
Edwards’ group launched a website to petition to remove the bust
On Monday, the Bedford County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to oppose the Stalin image, which was installed just days before the June 6 D-Day anniversary.
Vice Chairwoman Annie Pollard, who introduced the motion, said Bedford would be looked upon in a negative way if the sculpture isn’t removed.
“I don’t see where Stalin fits in,” she told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Although the site where the Stalin bust now stands is owned and controlled by the privately owned D-Day Memorial Foundation, Bedford County is donating $23,750 for upkeep in its 2010-2011 budget period starting July 1. The county could slash funding unless the bust is removed.
Wayne Schwartz of Goode, Va., told the supervisors during a public hearing that he had given thousands of dollars to the D-Day Memorial, but that he and his wife were withdrawing financial support until the bust is removed because he didn’t want schoolchildren to get the idea that it is honoring the dictator.
"Stalin is probably the most hated person of the 20th century," Schwartz said. "This bust has no place at the memorial."
President Obama hailed the Soviet participation in what he called the “Great Patriotic War” during his meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on June 25, sparking harsh criticism from Rush Limbaugh and other conservative commentators.
The “Great Patriotic War” is the term Stalin used to refer to World War II, but no American president has ever used the term in a similar context.
In his remarks with Medvedev last week, Obama harkened back to the days when the United States and the Soviet Union were allies against Nazi Germany.
“A reporter who was there at that time, all those years ago, said: ‘If there is a fine, splendid world in the future, it will largely be because the United States and Russia get on well together. If it is in trouble, it will be because they don’t get on well. It’s as simple as that…’ 65 years later, it’s still as simple as that,” Obama said.
Not all Democrats agree with President Obama’s glowing references to Stalin and the Soviet Union.
Rep. Tom Perriello, a Democrat representing the 5th Congressional District in Virginia, informed the D-Day Memorial Foundation that he would request removal of the Stalin statue if the memorial becomes part of the National Park Service, as some propose.
"I believe the inclusion of the Stalin bust on the memorial's grounds is beyond the foundation's mission and even inconsistent with it," Perriello wrote in a letter to the foundation’s president. "I am also concerned that the ongoing controversy could negatively impact our shared goal of having the memorial designated as part of the park service."
The foundation cited the educational nature of the exhibit to defend the inclusion of the controversial bust.
“[A]s a lifelong educator, I believe the Foundation has a responsibility to serve as a catalyst for serious discourse regarding key historical figures and their actions as they relate to the D-Day story and World War II in-general,” foundation President Robin E. Reed wrote to the Bedford County supervisors after their motion of disapproval. “To do otherwise is a serious disservice to those individuals that lived and died during those historical events.”
On a Web page devoted to the “Stalin debate,” the foundation reproduces the text that accompanies the Stalin bust.
“ In 1922, Joseph Stalin became General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and spent the next seven years eliminating fellow revolutionaries,” the text begins.
“He next eliminated prosperous peasant farmers (Kulaks) as a class by displacing them to proto-gulags, thus precipitating famines that killed untold millions. Stalin’s ‘Great Terror’ (1934-38) tried 50 million Soviet citizens; some 20 million were sent to gulags or executed. He also dispatched police (NKVD) to Mongolia, where tens of thousands died as ‘Japanese spies.’”
After recounting Stalin’s 1939 alliance with Hitler, and Germany’s subsequent violation of that pact and 1941 invasion of Russia, the text 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.”
But the nearby plaque with its recitation of Stalin’s crimes was not enough to overcome the insult, Lee Edwards believes.
“The world is closer than ever before to a consensus on the evils of communism and Stalin’s primary role in the worse crimes of the last century,” he said.
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