Ald. Aram Ayalon (D-3) has introduced a City Council Resolution to cancel, “any agreement between the mayor of the City of New Britain and the Lithuanian government regarding the monument for [Adolfas] Ramanauskas and the vote by the Parks and Recreation Commission from December 15, 2017, approving this monument.”
The resolution says that, “the agreement between the City of New Britain and the government of Lithuania to put a monument in memory of [Adolfas] Ramanauskas was done without knowing the controversy over his background as an alleged Nazi collaborator,” and goes on to say, “the proposed monument would have been offensive to those who lost family in the Holocaust and those who care about preserving the memory of the Holocaust.”
In January, 2018, the website, “Defending History,” edited by Professor Dovid Katz, questioned the planned New Britain monument to Ramanauskas, saying it sent a letter to Republican Mayor Erin Stewart, “to ask if her team was aware of the alleged pro-Nazi and Holocaust collaborator background of a Lithuanian militant, Adolfas Ramanauskas.” The website said,
Ramanauskas boasted in his own memoirs of leading a “partisan group” in late June 1941, and there is certainly nothing in that memoir expressing any regret over what those “partisan groups” did. They murdered and humiliated Jewish neighbors while blocking roads and circling towns to ensure that Jewish citizens could not escape the Nazi choke-hold.
Ayalon only recently became aware of the planned monument and introduced City Council petition in April requesting, “a temporary halt of the building of a monument to commemorate Lithuanian militant, Adolfas Ramanauskas, until further research has been conducted to help confirm the history behind the man being memorialized.”
After Ayalon pressed the city Parks and Recreation Commission to reverse its December, 2017 decision to allow the monument and to put a halt to it, Ayalon received word from Republican Mayor Erin Stewart ‘s office that Ramanauskas will not be honored with a monument. Stewart later called Ayalon to relate that the monument was not to proceed.
However, on April 24th, Ayalon received a message through the City Council’s office that Parks and Recreation Director Erik Barbieri, “was told by the Mayor’s office that it was verbally conveyed”, that the Ramanauskas monument would not proceed, but that, “he will not be sending any written response to [Ayalon’s] petition, per instruction by the mayor’s office.”
In response, Ayalon pressed Stewart in an email, saying,
Dear Mayor Stewart,
First I want to reiterate my thanks to your decision to halt the memorial for [Adolfas] Ramanauskas. However, in order to get an official document of your decision, there needs to be a written response to my petition as well as a vote in the Parks and Recreation Commission which voted in December to approve this monument. Absence of this official paper about your decision leaves the possibility that the monument might still be implemented.
I respectfully awaiting your written response.
Alderman Aram Ayalon
On April 25th, Stewart responded,
Dear Alderman Ayalon;
As we discussed on the phone, this project to honor Ramanauskas has been cancelled.
This email should suffice your request.
Mayor Erin E. Stewart
At the April 25th City Council meeting Ayalon pressed for Stewart to:
1. Have a vote by Parks and Rec to revoke its monument approval decision from
December 15 and have it reflected in the minutes
2. The mayor should submit a written letter explaining how this monument decision
came about and publicly revoke this decision for good.
Ramanauskas was born in New Britain to a Lithuanian family in 1918, which is apparently the reason why New Britain was selected as the site of the proposed monument. He is widely considered a national hero in Lithuania because of his leadership in partisan fighting against the Soviet Union after World War II. He was known by the code name Vanagas or “Hawk.” Chicago-based Draguas News referred to Ramanauskas as, “One of the last and best known commanders of Lithuanian armed resistance to Russian occupation.” He was captured by the KGB, was tortured and was executed in 1957. Ramanauskas was given numerous official honors after Lithuania became independent from the Soviet Union in 1990, and the Lithuanian parliament, called the Seimas, dedicated 2018 in his honor.
But Ramanauskas’ role as a leader of a partisan unit early in World War II has become the subject of controversy.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum says, when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in 1941,
The Lithuanians carried out violent riots against the Jews both shortly before and immediately after the arrival of German forces. In June and July 1941, detachments of German Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units), together with Lithuanian auxiliaries, began murdering the Jews of Lithuania. By the end of August 1941, most Jews in rural Lithuania had been shot.
Vilnius, Lithuania-based Prof. Katz said that Ramanauskas,
was the LEADER of one of these marauding bands of Hitlerist murderers who were killing Jews up and down the country in the days BEFORE the Germans got there. If there was any evidence of what he “personally did” that week it is gone, but the view of all good men and women here is that anyone who volunteered to LEAD one of those murderous groups in June 1941, and then bragged about it in his memoirs, without the slightest word of regret about what happened to his town’s Jewish minority is not necessarily a criminal but is certainly NOT a hero! Indeed, the particular unit Ramanauskas led was responsible for dozens of murders of “Jews and Communists” during the early weeks.
Scholar and playwright Laima Vince has defended Ramanauskas, saying that,
According to the KGB record of Ramanauskas’ interrogation, he stated that “For about two weeks in Druskininkai I was the leader of a so-called ‘security unit.’ However, the name ‘security’ was only a formality. We were only eighteen men. I don’t know who organized the group. I was only a leader in so far as I was assigned to guard what was left of state property. The group that I led did not participate in any activities regarding the punishment of civilians. Although I was part of this security unit I had no gun and no arm band. The only members of the group who were armed were those who stood guard.”
However, the widely respected Simon Wiesenthal Center has said that,
Adolfas Ramanauskas (“Vanagas”) was the leader of the local Nazi collaborators in the town of Druskininkiai in southern Lithuania, who persecuted the Jews of that community during the initial weeks following the Nazi invasion of June 22, 1941.
The Wiesenthal Center’s Director for Eastern Europe, Holocaust historian Dr. Efraim Zuroff had urged the Lithuanian Seimas not to name 2018 in Ramanauskas’ honor.
Ayalon’s proposed resolution is on the agenda of the May 9, 2018 City Council meeting.