The atmosphere was somber at the Victims of Communism Memorial on June 16th, as speakers urged attendees to remember those who perished under past communist regimes as well as those who suffer under them still.
Lee Edwards, chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, noted that it was the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, but that democratic nations still have a long way to go before we can rid the world of “an ideology that took the lives of an estimated 100 million [people].” Some of the most notable and horrific communist massacres over the last century were the extermination of hundreds of thousands of Cossacks by Vladimir Lenin in 1920, the starvation of the Ukrainians by the Kremlin and the murder of tens of millions of Chinese peasants by Mao Tse-tung.
Pointing to the bronze Goddess of Democracy statue before him—a replica of the original statue built by the anti-Communist protesters massacred in Tiananmen Square in 1989—Edwards said that this symbol “express[es] our feeling that one day…the people of China, North Korea, and Laos will experience the blessing of liberty.”
Dr. Aldona Wos, a former ambassador of Estonia who was raised in Communist Poland, called the communist ideology a “totalitarian system which is responsible for the destruction of individuals, their ideas and their dreams.”
Wos warned attendees to be vigilant of the manifestations of communism throughout the world, noting that “post-Soviet communists have…transformed themselves into various left wing parties.” An example she cited was the Social Democratic (SPD) party in Europe, a political party which Wos says “challenge[s] the moral values of Western Civilization.”
Dr. Jared Genser, president of Freedom Now, spoke on behalf of Dr. Yang Jianli, a Tiananmen square massacre survivor who could not attend the ceremony because he was undergoing surgery. Jianli urged the Democracies of the world to use the power of truth—especially through modern technologies like the internet—in the international fight against modern Communism.
“Truth is the soft underbelly of tyranny and the strongest sword of democracy,” wrote Jianli.
Throughout the ceremony, representatives and ambassadors from over twenty countries affected by communism served as a sharp reminder of how pervasive this oppression has been throughout recent history. At the end of the service, which also included short prayers by Rev. Toomas Vaga and Rev. David Yi, dozens of foreign ambassadors and representatives placed flowers and wreaths on the memorial in remembrance of the victims lost to communism in their own countries and around the world.
The event also included an award ceremony where the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom was awarded to Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), Bishop Laszlo Tokes and the late Rep. Jack Kemp (R-New York).
The day’s events concluded with a reception at the residence of the Romanian Ambassador and the launch of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s Online Global Museum on Communism.