Opponents of the recently installed bust of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va., are not backing down and have started a worldwide petition.
The petition, which was started last week, calls on the officers and board of directors at the National D-Day Memorial Foundation to remove the bust. It had received 616 confirmed signatures as of Monday afternoon, with confirmation pending on more than 200 other signatures.
The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, with assistance from the Joint Baltic American National Committee, intends to marshal public opinion against the board’s decision, said Karl Altau, the committee’s managing director. Mr. Altau said that while no goal has been specified, 10,000 signatures would be “terrific.”
“A nice, big, round number would be great,” he said.
As of Monday, the total number of signatures, confirmed and unconfirmed, numbered 864 from 45 states and 20 countries.
Mr. Altau said he has seen a strong response, especially from the countries hardest hit by Stalin’s dictatorship, such as Hungary, Poland and such former Soviet republics as Estonia, Latvia and Georgia. Three days before the petition’s launch, about two dozen demonstrators expressed their displeasure at the monument with the Stalin bust.
Bedford lost the most men per capita of any U.S. community during World War II. The town’s National Guard unit was in the front of the first wave of the D-Day attack on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, and 21 Bedford men were killed — about two-thirds of the men the town of 3,200 people sent overseas to fight the war.
Stalin is infamous for his dictatorial oppression of the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 1940s, which led to the deaths of at least 20 million people, leaving many at a loss for why the dictator should be honored in Bedford.
“It hits very close to home for a lot of people,” Mr. Altau said.
Jim Morrison, a member of the Bedford post of the American Legion, said he wrote a letter to the then-president of the memorial, William McIntosh, outlining 13 reasons not to install the bust. Mr. McIntosh did not respond to the letter, Mr. Morrison said. As a result of the bust’s installation, Mr. Morrison suspended his financial support to the foundation and ceased volunteering there.
Mr. Morrison urged the public to write Mr. McIntosh, newspapers and representatives in Congress to remove the bust.
“We’re committed to sticking with this in the long run,” Mr. Morrison said.
Mr. McIntosh, who recently retired from his position as president of the D-Day Memorial Foundation, was unavailable for comment. Robin Reed will take his place June 28.
“I think that they’re just sticking to their guns right now,” Mr. Altau said. “They’re waiting for this to kind of pass by.”
Opponents of the bust have also harnessed social media and other outlets to express their frustration, with several online polls indicating strong opposition to the bust’s existence. The Facebook page “Josef Stalin must not be honored at the National D-Day Memorial” had 2,550 members as of Monday.