After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russians began taking down their statues of Josef Stalin, the mass murderer who killed millions of people. Astonishingly, in America, the National D-Day Memorial is honoring Stalin by placing his bust on a pedestal at its museum in Bedford, Virginia.
This misguided move will haunt millions of Ukrainians, Russians, Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, Jews, etc. whose families were massacred by this Soviet tyrant. Stalin's killing machine slaughtered more people than Adolf Hitler and the Nazis did.
Hitler and Stalin were allies and started World War II in 1939 by both attacking Poland at the same time. But William McIntosh, the D-Day Memorial's president says that because Stalin became a U.S. ally after Germany invaded Russia, he deserves to be acknowledged along with Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
McIntosh is wrong. Stalin only gave lip service to the allies so that they would attack Nazi Germany on the Western front. Stalin did not liberate Eastern Europe from the Nazis in 1945; he sent in Soviet troops that occupied half of Europe until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Stalin the communist barely hid his disdain for capitalist America during WWII, and once the war ended, he began the Cold War and ordered his scientists to work on missiles and nuclear weapons that could destroy the United States.
Given McIntosh's logic, should America put up a statue of Saddam Hussein because he was an ally of the U.S. in the 1980s when we supported Iraq in a war against Iran?
Congress authorized the D-Day Memorial and private donors raised $19 million to honor soldiers that fought in the invasion of Normandy. Now McIntosh is lobbying Congress to make his museum part of the National Park Service so that it can receive federal tax dollars.
By placing a bust of Stalin on hallowed ground, McIntosh disrespects veterans, including my father who took part in the Normandy invasion. When the war began, Dionysius Storozynski was 17 and living in Lvov, Poland. He fought in the underground against Stalin's army that invaded Poland and later joined the Polish troops in France that fought the Germans in the West. When France surrendered, he was evacuated to England and trained for the allied invasion of Normandy.
In 1944, when the beachhead was taken, Corporal Storozynski rode a motorcycle off a transport from England as part of the 24th Lancers Regiment of the 1st Polish Armored Division. It was lead by Major Jan Kanski with 47 officers, 634 men, 52 Sherman tanks, 11 Stuart tanks and six anti-aircraft tanks. My father sped ahead of these troops, and scoured the French countryside with his binoculars. He radioed the coordinates of the Germans to Polish tank commanders. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower inspected my father's regiment, which saw heavy action in Caen, Falaise and Aberville in France. They helped liberate Belgium and Holland.
During the campaign, my father lost part of his hearing when he drove over a land mine. Major Kanski lost his life.
My maternal grandfather, Sgt. Wladslaw Krzyzanowski, also fought in the Polish Army against Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. In 1939 he was tortured and sentenced to death by Stalin's NKVD, forerunner of the KGB. His crime? He fought against Stalin's ally at the time, Hitler. My grandfather's sentence was commuted to life, and he was one of 1.5 million Poles sent to Stalin's forced labor gulags in Siberia in the years 1939-1941. He escaped and joined the army of Polish Gen. Wladyslaw Anders that fought alongside British General Bernard Montgomery. The Brits and the Poles pushed the Germans across North Africa and together with the American military liberated Italy. My grandfather won medals at the Battle of Monte Cassino.
Other Polish soldiers were not as lucky. The NKVD took 22,000 Polish officers into the Katyn Forest, tied their hands behind their backs, and one by one shot them in the back of their heads. The bodies were dumped into mass graves. Many have yet to be recovered for proper burial.
That's how Stalin treated prisoners of war. He wasn't much better to his own people. Before World War II began, the NKVD killed millions of Russians during the "great purge" of Stalin's political enemies. Stalin forced collectivization, stole farmland from peasants, and starved to death 10 million Ukrainians in a vengeful act of genocide. And it was Stalin's 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact with Hitler that split Poland in half, allowing the Germans to carry out the Holocaust that murdered six million Jews.
Stalin enslaved the Russian people. That's why Russia has taken down most of the statues of Stalin and Russian President Dimitri Medvedev is critical of those who gloss over Stalin's image. "From the point of view of the law, killing of a huge number of compatriots for political or unsubstantiated economic motives is a crime," Medvedev recently told Der Spiegel magazine. "The rehabilitation of those involved in these crimes is impossible."
In addition to the civilians that Stalin murdered, he sent Russian soldiers to their death by using them as cannon fodder, marching them directly into the line of German gunfire without a cohesive battle plan. Medvedev said recently on his web site, "Stalin's crimes cannot diminish the heroic deeds of the people who triumphed in the Great Patriotic war."
If McIntosh wants to honor Russia's contribution to the victory over Nazi Germany, he should put up a statue of the Unknown Russian Soldier. That would make more sense than a bust of Stalin.
It took the people of the former Soviet Empire five decades to right the wrongs of Stalin's "evil empire," as Ronald Reagan called it. These days, the Poles are planning to put up a statue of Reagan in Warsaw to acknowledge his role in ending Soviet Communism. How ironic that in Virginia, America is putting up a bust of Stalin.
Follow Alex Storozynski on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AlexStorozynski