On June 12, the Victims of Communism Memorial was officially unveiled in the presence of government leaders, diplomatic corps members, ethnic leaders, foreign dignitaries and other supporters. Located in the nation’s capital, President George Bush received the memorial on behalf of the American people. The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, delivered the invocation.
The memorial marked a long-needed reminder of a murderous legacy. Americans finally recognize with a monument those who fell victim to Communism, the deadliest mass killing force ever unleashed upon the human race.
Indeed, Lenin reportedly said “a single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” In less than 100 years, Communism managed to record a tragic statistic of more than 100 million lives sacrificed. Moreover, Communism continues to enslave one-fifth of the world’s population today.
The project is the brainchild of conservative historian Lee Edwards and Dr. Lev Dobriansky who met with National Park Service officials to see what was needed to build a public memorial in Washington, D.C. in the early nineties. The project then cut its way through Washington’s bureaucracy, a 24-step process that included congressional permission, site selection, design approval, financial commitments, and actual construction. In 1993, President Clinton signed a bill authorizing a Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington.
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The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation also raised the necessary funds to build on the state-donated land at the intersection of Massachusetts Ave., New Jersey Ave., and G St. in the city’s northwest quadrant within sight of the Capitol.
Various designs were discussed and included a replica of the Berlin Wall, a Gulag prison, or a fragile boat used by Cuban or Vietnamese refugees. The final decision was to build a replica of a bronze statue inspired by the figure erected by Chinese students at Tiananmen Square in 1989. Thus, it serves to remind viewers that Communism is not dead but survives even in the twenty-first century in China – an American trade partner. The repressive system also stubbornly continues in Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea.
The dedication ceremony coincided with the twentieth anniversary of Pres. Ronald Reagan’s famous speech at the Berlin Wall in which he challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall.”
“The 20th century will be remembered as the deadliest century in human history,” said President Bush at the inaugural ceremony. “Yet, until now, our Nation’s Capital had no monument to the victims of imperial Communism, an ideology that took the lives of an estimated 100 million innocent men, women and children. So it’s fitting that we gather to remember those who perished at Communism’s hands, and dedicate this memorial that will enshrine their suffering and sacrifice in the conscience of the world.”
Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo), a Holocaust survivor, gave the keynote speech, especially America’s role in fighting Communism saying that “everyone who has tasted Communism, from Albania to Estonia, knows that without the United States, this existential struggle would have been lost.”
It was also fitting that the Apostolic Nuncio was present. The Catholic Church suffered and still suffers from persecution from atheistic Communism. Among the countless victims are bishops, priests and faithful whose only crimes was to be steadfast in the Faith. During the Cold War years, the TFPs often remembered these souls by holding special public “Masses for the Victims of Communism.”
An Unfinished War
While participants remembered the fall of the Berlin Wall, they were also reminded that the Cold War is left unfinished. The people of China, Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam continue to suffer under Communist regimes that systematically violate human rights and deny private property. Rather than suffer disgrace, Marxist ideologues still defend and spread their twisted ideas everywhere.
What makes this dedication so important is the fact that it remembers what has been intentionally forgotten.
Remembering the victims of Communism is a continuing indictment of the West. It points to the shameful silence of leftists and liberal media who do not speak out against Communism when all know the misery it promotes. It is a stinging rebuke to decades of failed policies, trade agreements and compromises that still perpetuate the system. Remembering victims recalls the insensitivity of so many indifferent ones who ignore the brutal inhumanity of this system.
Sadly the memorial reminds us, the battle is not over.