Michael Gerson

But Stalin authored racial atrocities of his own. Historian Andrew Roberts notes: "Stalin also committed seven major acts of racial genocide, against the Ukrainians in 1930-32, the Poles, Balts, Moldavians and Bessarabians in 1939-41 and 1944-45, the Volga Germans in 1941, the Crimean Tatars in 1943, the Chechens and the Inguches in 1944."

Stalin and Hitler were moral equals in nearly every respect -- the slave labor camps, the mass graves, the night arrests, the sadistic and sycophantic circle of enablers. Stalin added forced famine -- in which millions of lives were taken like a scythe takes wheat -- along with show trials and purges. Stalin's lieutenants would act out for his entertainment the pleadings of old colleagues about to be executed. "The greatest delight," Stalin once said, "is to mark one's enemy, prepare everything, avenge oneself thoroughly, and then go to sleep."

The main difference between Hitler and Stalin is that one lost a war and ended with a bullet in his head. The other gets a bust at the National D-Day Memorial.

Officials at the Bedford memorial respond to the controversy with typical museum-speak about their "educational mission" to examine "global contexts and consequences" while being a "catalyst for serious discourse." The former president of the memorial compared criticism of the Stalin bust to criticism of a statue depicting FDR in a wheelchair.

It is extraordinary how people dedicated to the preservation of history can so effectively trivialize history by denying its emotional and moral content. How would a Pole whose father or grandfather was murdered in the Katyn Forest massacre be educated by walking past a memorial bust of Stalin? How is Russian sacrifice in World War II honored by the image of a man who treated Russia to endless, unnecessary sacrifice?

For most Americans who fought in World War II, it was not merely a historical event; it was a cause. They temporarily shared an alliance with Stalin, but they fought for principles he hated. His presence at their memorial is not educational; it is offensive.


Michael Gerson

Michael Gerson writes a twice-weekly column for The Post on issues that include politics, global health, development, religion and foreign policy. Michael Gerson is the author of the book "Heroic Conservatism" and a contributor to Newsweek magazine.
 
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