Josef Stalin had nothing to do with the June 6, 1944, Normandy invasion, yet a bust of the Soviet dictator is being given a place at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va. This is an unearned and indecent honor for a man who is remembered as one of history’s greatest mass murderers. The memorial to this communist should be removed.
The mission of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation is to “commemorate the valor, fidelity and sacrifice of Allied participants in the invasion of Normandy.” Soviet troops played no role in the D-Day invasion, thus it is inappropriate for the Soviet leader to be given a place of honor there. Stalin’s defenders argue that the Soviet Union played a critical part in defeating Hitler’s Germany and that the bust is an appropriate acknowledgment of that role without being an endorsement of anything else Stalin did.
By that flawed logic, however, every battle memorial should honor every leader involved in the war. Stalin’s visage could grace scenes of American triumphs from Bastogne to Iwo Jima. For comparison, the Stalingrad battle monument in Russia doesn’t feature a likeness of President Franklin Roosevelt or British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, nor should it. There is a tribute to the “Big Three” leaders in the city’s central square, but it commemorates the 1945 Yalta Conference, not the critical 1942 battle. More to the point, the city that had borne Stalin’s name is now known as Volgograd.
The D-Day Memorial should take its cues from those who knew Stalin best. On Friday, officials in Stalin’s hometown of Gori, Georgia, removed a 20-foot-high bronze statue of the dictator that had stood in the city’s central square. Georgian Culture Minister Nikoloz Rurua explained, “It was absurd and shameful to have a statue of a Soviet tyrant in this country, a country that wants to be part of the free world.” Local nostalgia aside, Stalin did not play favorites with his native nation. Georgians were victimized by Stalin’s tyranny like any other Soviet citizens. They understand that any public tributes to Stalin are necessarily seen as endorsements of everything for which he stood.
Robin Reed, the new president of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation, told The Washington Times last week that he “certainly [was] not going to re-evaluate” the statue issue, but he certainly should. Opposition to the bust is growing. On June 23, Rep. Tom Perriello, Virginia Democrat, sent a letter to the D-Day Memorial Foundation, arguing that “the inclusion of the Stalin bust on the Memorial’s grounds is beyond the Foundation’s mission, and even inconsistent with it.” Bedford County Supervisors have voted unanimously to recommend removing the bust. An online petition at stalinstatue.com sponsored by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation has more than 2,400 signatures, and a Facebook page opposing granting Stalin this honor is also attracting supporters.
Mr. Reed has argued that the Stalin bust is a teaching tool and says that he wants to “take the memorial to the next level.” Mr. Perriello notes in his letter that the Stalin tribute stands squarely in the way of the next level and “could negatively impact … having the Memorial designated as part of the National Park Service.” Mr. Reed should re-examine his dedication to this unnecessary, unjust and repugnant tribute to a monster who caused death and suffering on a grand scale.
The lessons that need to be learned about Stalin and his tyranny should be taught in memorials to the gulag, Katyn Forest and the Ukrainian genocide, not in a location set aside to honor the valor and sacrifice of the Allied troops who stormed the beaches of Normandy.
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