"THE UNKNOWN HOLOCAUST"
These lessons were prepared by Valentina Kuryliw, Department Head of History and Social Studies for Grade 10 Civics for the Toronto District School Board.
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Prepared by Valentina Kuryliw (York Humber High School) TDSB
HARVEST OF DESPAIR
It is called the forgotten holocaust -- a time when Stalin was dumping millions of tons of wheat on the Western markets, while in Ukraine, men, women and children were dying of starvation at the rate of 25,000 a day, 17 human beings a minute. Seven to 10 million people perished in a famine caused not by war, or natural disasters, but by ruthless decree. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of this great tragedy the story is finally being told. Since 1981, the Ukrainian Famine Research Committee has been gathering materials, seeking out eye-witnesses and documenting this unprecedented event. HARVEST OF DESPAIR is the product of this effort.
The film probes the tragic consequences of the Ukrainian nation's struggle for greater cultural and political autonomy in the 20s and 30s. Through rare archival footage, the results of Stalin's lethal countermeasures unfold in harrowing detail. Highlighting the film are intensely moving eyewitness accounts of survivors of the famine, as well as such noted individuals as Petro Grigorenko, a former Soviet General, British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, Ambassador Johann Von Herwarth, the then German Attaché in Moscow and Andor Hencke, then German Consul in Ukraine and others.
HARVEST OF DESPAIR explores the reasons why this man-made famine remains so little known. Blinded by radical leftwing ideals, world statesmen, such as Edouard Herriot, Pulitzer prize-winning journalists, and celebrities such as George Bernard Shaw, all contributed to the regime's campaign of concealment. Even the democratic governments of the depression hit West preferred to remain silent over Soviet Russia's atrocities in order to continue trading.
In 1932-33, roughly one quarter of the entire population of Ukraine perished through brutal starvation. HARVEST OF DESPAIR, through its stark, haunting images, provides the eloquent testimony of a lost generation that has been silenced too long. The film leaves a legacy to future generations, an impassioned plea for humanity which is not easily forgotten. In April 1985 film Harvest of Despair won First Prize and Gold Medal at the Houston International Festival.
The filmmakers wish to express their great appreciation to the witnesses for their courage in recounting these traumatic events in their lives. Film can be purchased or rented at reasonable price from committee.
Released in 1984 this prize-winning film won seven awards in Canada and the United States. It is available on VHS cassette for $25.00 from:
Ukrainian Canadian Research & Documentation Centre
a. What evidence exists that the Famine was man-made?Part 2
a) Why were Western countries silent about this tragedy in 1932-337
THE GREAT FAMINE IN UKRAINE, 1932-1933
In 1932-33, the Government of the USSR's assault on the Ukrainian peasantry, and on the Ukrainian nation, was one of the most devastating occurrences of ethnic cleansing in the twentieth century. It was a colossal human tragedy. More lives were lost in Ukraine due to the Great Famine than in all of Europe as a consequence of World War I.
Today, the newly-independent Government of Ukraine estimates that no less than ten million Ukrainians starved to death in the man-made famine of 1932-33. At least three million were children. About one-third of the peasantry was wiped out.
Under the rule of Joseph Stalin and his First Five Year Plan (1928-1932), a harsh policy of collectivization was applied in Ukraine. Beginning in 1928, independent farmers were forced to give up their farmland, livestock, and equipment to the state, without compensation. The more well-to-do peasant farmers, or kurkuls, and leaders in the villages were targeted as "anti-soviet, unwanted elements". They were systematically destroyed by deportations to Siberia, concentration camps, and firing squads. These people constituted about 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 of Ukraine's population of 32 million. Any opposition to collectivization was met by brutal force as secret police and army units were sent to villages to collect not only the grain quota, but also all food retained by individual households. The borders of Ukraine were sealed, so as to prevent any food imports. In contrast, food in Russia was plentiful except in the Kuban region where Ukrainians had settled. To ensure that Ukrainian peasants could not leave their villages to seek relief in the cities, the Soviet government instituted a system of passports so that no one could travel without permission. Entire villages died from starvation, while wheat collected in government-owned bins either rotted from mismanagement, sent abroad or was used for the production of alcohol. As people starved, Communist bosses and party faithful were well fed. On the collective farms, those peasants who survived the famine became little better than slave labourers, with few rights or privileges on land cultivated by their ancestors for centuries before.
Why did this happen? The answer lies in a statement made by Maxim Litvinov, the Soviet Commissar of Foreign Affairs, in 1932: "Food is a weapon." The famine was a conscious instrument of Soviet policy to break the body and spirit of the Ukrainian peasantry, and thus subjugate the nation completely to Soviet rule. After 250 years of Russian rule, Ukrainians had tried to gain independence during the Russian Revolution and Civil War (1917-1920). Their attempt was crushed by the Red Army, and by 1923 Ukraine became a colony within the Soviet Union. Stalin was not going to permit such a struggle for freedom again. By crushing the peasantry, which constituted about 85% of Ukraine's population and which was resisting communism, he would deal the nation a mortal blow. To ensure compliance with the strategy of using "food as a weapon", and to minimize any sympathy for the suffering of the local population, Stalin appointed mainly non- Ukrainians to key positions in the Ukrainian Government. We know that history has demonstrated both the brutality and the success of 5talin's domestic policies.
Effect of Famine on Canada.
Ukrainian farmers had settled and developed much of the Canadian west at the turn of the century. When these Canadians offered to help ease the suffering in Ukraine by sending food through the Red Cross, they were told that the famine was a hoax. In fact, in 1932 Soviet wheat from Ukraine was dumped on world markets. Wheat that had been confiscated from Ukrainian peasants by Fled Army troops and secret police was sold to western countries at prices no Canadian farmer could match. No one could believe that the people growing the wheat were being starved to death. Further, the Soviet government instituted a policy of "disinformation", convincing journalists and Soviet sympathizers in the west as well as western governments that there was no famine, as Ukraine had produced a great harvest in 1932, sufficient to feed its population for several years. Until very recently, the Soviet government maintained its formal denial that the Great Famine had ever taken place, or that the state had any part in creating it. Fortunately today there exists an excellent documentary record that Ukraine, "the breadbasket of Europe," was indeed a target of ethnic cleansing, with starvation as a potent weapon of Soviet policy of dealing with its towards its largest minority, the Ukrainian people.