- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 11, 2003

Members of the National Capital Memorial Commission yesterday began considering a site for an international memorial that would honor an estimated 100 million victims of communism.

Plans are to build a 10-foot-tall Goddess of Liberty and install an eternal flame near the U.S. Capitol. The sculpture would be a replica of a statue created by student activists in China and then destroyed by the communist government’s tanks in Tiananmen Square by Chinese communist tanks in 1989.

“Many Americans are not aware of the magnitude and the horror of communism that took 100 million lives,” said Jay Katzen, a former U.S. diplomat who is now president and chief executive officer of Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation which has raised funds for a memorial.

The foundation favors a site at First Street and Louisiana Avenue NW, within view of the Capitol and across the street from the Taft Memorial and Japanese American Memorial.

At yesterday’s meeting, commission member Michael McGill said he felt it would be inappropriate for the proposed memorial to be erected next to the Japanese American memorial, which he described to be a “failure of democracy.” After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese Americans were forced to live together in housing camps until World War II ended.

The commission is now looking at another site near the U.S. Supreme Court and Maryland Avenue NE.

Although more than 40 nations were afflicted by communism, the United States was the predominant cause for its defeat, said Lee Edwards, foundation chairman. That’s why it would be appropriate that such an international memorial be erected in the District, Mr. Edwards said.

Mr. Edwards, who has also been a professor of economics at Catholic University, said a memorial to victims of communism is important because many students have little knowledge about the extent of communism, which began in 1917 under the regimes of Russia’s Vladimir I. Lenin and China’s Mao Tse-tung.

“My concern is to educate our young,” Mr. Katzen said. “If we don’t have a memorial to [the victims], they will be forgotten.”

Commission Chairman John G. Parsons said the panel will continue to consider the memorial’s plans at its next meeting next month.

If the commission approves of the memorial’s plan and site, it must then be approved by the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission. The proposal has already received bipartisan political support of the U.S. Congress, Mr. Edwards said.

The project was originally conceived as a $100 million museum, similar to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. But, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, who sponsored the legislation in 1993 that authorized the memorial, blamed poor leadership and fund raising difficulties for downsizing the project to a $450,000 memorial.

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