Ald. Aram Ayalon has introduced City Council petition 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.” Ayalon cites concerns regarding accusations about Ramanauskas and the parts of the Holocaust that occurred in Lithuania in 1941.
Ayalon said that, “Recently our Parks and Rec department approved a memorial to Adolfas Ramanauskas who was born in New Britain but as an infant went back to Lithuania and served in the anti-Soviet partisan units during WWII…”
Ramanauskas was born in New Britain to a Lithuanian family in 1918. 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, scholar Dovid Katz, editor of the website, “Defending History,” told Ayalon,
In Lithuania (among other countries), the killing of innocent Jews started on June 23rd , led by groups of young armed Hitlerists with white armbands, many of them affiliated with the “LAF” (Lithuanian Activist Front). In the days BEFORE the Germans actually arrived, they managed to kill some 7000 Jews across Lithuania, humiliating, plundering and injuring many thousands more.
Katz added 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.
In January, “Defending History” 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.
The 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 organization, Lithuanian Jewish Community, issued a statement in 2017 saying that, at this time, it, “knows of no reliable information based on extant historical documents confirming the accusations made against Ramanauskas implicating him in the Holocaust or the murder of Jews of Lithuania.”
However, Katz said that, “there are deep divisions within the small Jewish community here (total of about 3000 in all of Lithuania). There is the ‘official’ Jewish community, lavishly sponsored by the government that tends to take government positions on major issues against the sensibilities of the surviving Jewish people here.” He added that, “there is the Vilnius Jewish Community, actually representing by democratic vote the 2,200 Jews of the capital, whose 21 member council was democratically elected last year.”
Ayalon says that his request for a halt to construction of a monument to Ramanauskas on New Britain park land is so that the accusations can be investigated.
A City Council petition is a New Britain procedure that allows a member of the Council to require city departments to investigate matters and report back the Council and may include requests that city departments take certain actions requested by the Council member.
Ayalon’s petition was referred, on March 28, 2018, to the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission. That commission is appointed by Stewart.