Every Gl who manned the West's ramparts during the Cold War probably asked himself, "Why am I here? Does my service along the curtain of communism really count?" Of course it did. A veteran need only contemplate the lives potentially saved by his mere presence overseas.
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, when told that many Gls did not know what they were fighting for during WWII, said that after seeing the concentration camps, they would know what they were fighting against.
Once the Victims of Communism Memorial is built, Cold War veterans will no longer have to wonder what they were serving for. And neither will the American public.
Washington, D.C., is a city of monuments-to famous presidents and unknown soldiers, memorable battles and lost wars. There is even a U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum dedicated to remembering Nazi Germany's horrific campaign of genocide against the Jewish people.
But there is no Washington memorial to the victims of communism, which has taken the lives of over 100 million innocent men, women and children since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and still enslaves one-fifth of the world's people. That will change with the opening of the Victims of Communism Memorial Museum near the Mall early in the new century.
Commissioned by an act of Congress (Public Law 103-199) in December 1993, the Victims of Communism Memorial Museum will include:
Roll Call of Victims. An electronic database will include the names, addresses and, where possible, photos of victims from the more than 40 nations that have suffered under communism. It is planned for the roll call to include the names of Americans who served and died, for example, along the Iron Curtain in Germany and in Korea's DMZ during the 45-year-long Cold War. (See story on p. 23.)
Hall of Heroes. Statues, busts and paintings will honor anti-Communist champions like Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sakharov Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel and many others, including American military leaders.
Hall of Infamy. In a multi-story atrium will be located artifacts and symbols of communism's inhumanity to man, including a section of the Berlin Wall, a Gulag barracks, a cell from Castro's infamous Isle of Pines and the Goddess of Democracy erected in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
The Victims of Communism Memorial Museum will also feature oral histories bv survivors and resisters to communism. Accounts of American veterans relating their largely unknown service in the Cold War will be there, too. 100 MILLION VICTIMS
It is a great moral failing of our age that the extent of communism's terrible atrocities remains so dimly understood. The horrors of Nazism are, of course, well-known and documented.
But who knows that the Soviet Union murdered up to 30 million people through mass executions, forced famines, and the infamous Gulag Archipelago? "NWe have never rejected terror in principle," Vladimir Lenin (Soviet premier, 1917-24) wrote in 1901. And no Soviet leader ever rejected Lenin.
Who knows that Communist China's dictators slaughtered as many as 50 million citizens with grotesque "experiments" like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution? Chinese communism has equalled murder in Tibet, where Mao Zedung's campaign to wipe out Buddhist culture turned hundreds of thousands of Tibetans into corpses. …