In June 2007, President George W. Bush dedicated America’s Victims of Communism Memorial, the only memorial in the world dedicated to every single victim. During the dedication President Bush said:
“We have an obligation to future generations to record the crimes of the 20th century and make sure they’re never repeated. In this hallowed place we recall the lessons of the Cold War: that freedom is precious and cannot be taken for granted.”
Every June since, VOC holds an event at the memorial to recall these lessons.
This year we remembered the millions of victims of communism on June 12, surrounded by survivors of communist countries, embassies representing nations affected by communism, and this year’s recipients of the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom.
The commemoration ceremony featured remarks by VOC Chairman Dr. Lee Edwards, 2015 Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom recipients Alexandr Podrabinek and Guillermo Fariñas, and former Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Janos Martonyi.
In his remarks, Guillermo Fariñas recognized a group of Cuban political prisoners who had been jailed in Cuba for more than 15 years. “These people who are here today, have inspired me in my fight. These men never gave up on their struggle, as I never will.” He continued to talk about those to whom he dedicated his Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom, specifically the men and women who travelled around the world advocating freedom and spoke out against communism. “If it were not for their efforts, we would be surrounded by the fanaticism of communism.”
Former Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Janos Martonyi, who lead Hungary into NATO, reminded the audience about the legacy of communism, and how imperative it is “to give a clear answer to people who are still saying that communism or Marxism-Leninism was a great idea… and only the implementation was wrong.” Martonyi discussed the violent nature of communism and its need for dictatorships to “erect walls, barbed wires, iron curtains.” He said that “it has become clear that democracy, rule of law, human rights, can only be assured if there is peace and if there is security.”
Dr. Lee Edwards, VOC’s chairman, recounted the beginnings of VOC. He explained how the lack of answers to questions such as “why did communism collapse?” and “was it inevitable?” helped create the need for a group like VOC. He explained the necessity of the memorial, which commemorates the sacrifice of millions of victims of communist regimes, and the need of a museum to examine the ideology, history, and legacy of communism.
Alexander Podrabinek reminded the audience that “the interests of freedom are not defined by national boundaries.” He discussed how communism has survived by having different faces: “communist dogma and classic communist dictatorship gave place to communist pragmatism and modified communism.” However, he remarked how these new dictatorships do not change the essence of the the true meaning of communist states, but have created a world-wide acceptance under new disguises.
The ceremony concluded with the 8th annual Roll Call of Nations, during which embassies, as well as dozens of national ethnic and human rights organizations, laid wreaths at the Memorial. Twenty-three embassies and 33 ethnic organizations, including National Endowment for Democracy, Cold War Veterans, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, Students for a Free Tibet, and Cuba Democracy Advocates, participated in the event, commemorating the 100 million victims of communism around the world. Surrounded by hundreds of people of many nationalities and ethnic backgrounds, the event commemorated the more than 100 million people killed by communist regimes around the world.
This event helps us recall the fundamentally important lessons of the victims of communism: that every life lost to this deadly ideology is a tragedy, and that the tragedy of communism continues to play out even today. Communism did not end in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, but continues to live on in some former communist states and in the several still-communist countries around the world today.
Every year this wreath laying ceremony is an opportunity for us to tell all of the victims that they are not forgotten, and that their struggle was not in vain.