The National D-Day Memorial Foundation Board plans to relocate a controversial bust of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin — but not because the statue has drawn wide criticism, Foundation president Robin Reed said yesterday. The bust was removed from the memorial last night and will be reinstalled at a later date.
“I didn’t remove the bust in light of the opposition,” Reed said. “If anything, the opposition has served as a catalyst for me to kind of look at the reinterpretation of [the memorial design] sooner rather than later.”
The bust is part of a wider display of Allied Leaders — including Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill — at the Bedford, Va., memorial. That particular display was designed to educate memorial visitors about the context in which D-Day occurred and it was doing that, Reed said, but he and the other board members still became concerned that the exhibit — at least in its original location — detracted from the overall purpose of the memorial.
“We feel that those two interpretive messages being in such close proximity to each other — the story about the soldiers’ valor, fidelity and sacrifice and the Allied Leaders’ story — are in conflict with one another and really kind of dilute one another,” Reed said.
That’s just what critics have been saying since the installation of the bust in early June.
“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,” said Lee Edwards, chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
Annie Pollard, vice chairman of the Bedford County Board of Supervisors, which in June voted unanimously to object to the inclusion of the statue at the memorial, said the memorial’s purpose is to honor D-Day veterans. “I don’t see where Stalin fits in,” she said.
Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA), who represents Bedford, publicly opposed the sculpture for similar reasons. And more than 4,500 people have signed an online petition that calls for its removal.
Yet, the D-Day Memorial Foundation Board elected only to relocate the bust, rather than remove it.
“Our intention is to take all four of the Allied Leaders’ statuary down until which time we can plan a better interpretive space at the Memorial with the rest of the political leaders and sort of separate the political story from the military story,” Reed said.
The board has heard from people on all sides of the debate, Reed said, but he and the other board members still stand by the original justification for the statue’s inclusion. War makes strange bedfellows and the bust makes that point clear, he said.
“These Allies that we joined forces with — one of them is probably one of the most infamous individuals in terms of crimes against humanity that the world has ever known and we talk about that story already in the interpretive plaque [that accompanies the bust],” Reed said. “I think that we probably have done more to educate the American public about Stalin in the last 15 weeks than probably has been done in a long, long time.”