A Museum Dedicated to 100 Million Victims

Article excerpt

If the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation succeeds, a vacant eight-and-a-half-story Department of Education building near The Mall in Washington will be converted into a memorial and museum to honor the victims of communism.

The building is across the street from the National Air and Space Museum, the city's busiest, which draws 8.5 million visitors annually. "We want kids to come out of the Air and Space Museum and then go [into the memorial]," says Lee Edwards, president of the foundation, which would oversee the design, construction and operation of the complex.

The memorial would honor the people slain by the communist leaders of the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Cuba since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, as well as the "thousands of families ... still subjected to the misery and degradation imposed on them by ruthless regimes," writes Maritza Alvarez, outreach coordinator for the foundation, in a fund-raising letter seeking support for the project.

The foundation anticipates raising $100 million -- an amount matching the estimated 100 million deaths under communist governments, says Edwards, a senior editor of The World & I, a monthly journal published by the Washington Times Corp. About half of that amount likely will be needed for the building itself, and the rest will be used for an upkeep endowment.

Edwards and foundation officials plan to meet with officials of the General Services Administration to discuss terms concerning the unoccupied building. The foundation hopes to obtain tax-exempt status from the IRS in September; after that, fund-raising can begin in earnest.

Groundbreaking for the renovation project would take place in July 1999, the 40th anniversary of Captive Nations Week, initiated during the Eisenhower administration to call attention to those countries whose citizens were living under communist rule. "The memorial will not be just a statue in a park," says Edwards. "At its center will be a multistory museum and research facility that will feature artifacts like a barracks in the Soviet Gulag, a section of the Berlin Wall and a cell of the 'Hanoi Hilton.'"

The complex would contain oral histories, original documents and documentary films detailing the communist holocaust from its bloody birth in 1917 through the forced famine of Ukraine in the 1930s, the killing fields of Cambodia in the 1970s to the labor camps -- the laogai -- of today's China. …