TEACHING UNIT
THE GREAT FAMINE IN UKRAINE
1932-1933 

"THE UNKNOWN HOLOCAUST"
by VALENTINA KURYLIW

For
Grade 10 Civics


TOPIC: GENOCIDE 

These lessons were prepared by Valentina Kuryliw, Department Head of History and Social Studies for Grade 10 Civics for the Toronto District School Board. 


Unit 3: 
Democracy: Global Perspective 

  • Activity 3: In Defence of Human Rights: Genocide: Man-Made Famine in Soviet Ukraine. 1932-33. 
  • Lesson Title:  Example of Genocide: Soviet Mode Famine in Ukraine 1932-33. 
  • Key Expectations: Overall Expectations
  • PCV.04 - demonstrate an understanding of a citizen's role in responding to non-democratic movements through personal and group actions.
  • ACV.01 - demonstrate an ability to research questions and issues of civic importance, and to think critically and creatively about these issues and questions. 

Specific expectations

  • PC3.04 - analyse the evolution of Canada's participation in international tribunals, from the World War 11 to the International Court of Justice's ongoing prosecutions involving war crimes and genocide. 
  • AC1.02 - demonstrate an ability to formulate questions; locate information from different sources; and identify main ideas, supporting evidence, points of view, and biases in these materials. 
  • IC5.01 - analyse contemporary crises or issues of international significance in the context of the global community. 
  • PC3.06 - demonstrate an ability to anticipate conflicting civic purposes, overcome personal bias, and suspend judgment in dealing with issues of civic concern. 
  • AC3.02 - communicate their own beliefs, points of view, and informed judgments, and effectively use appropriate discussion skills. 

 

Assessment / Evaluation Techniques

Diagnostic Assessment of definition of Genocide
Formative Assessment student responses to questions on video

Summative Evaluation of Newspaper article produced.

 

Teaching / Learning Strategies

  1. Teacher to review purpose of UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Discuss the implications of the Declaration with the whole class using socratic questioning. (http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html
     
  2. Brainstorm definition of "genocide". Establish examples of genocide of which they know in different areas of the world and types of governments involved. This could be done in chart form using columns. Answer question, "why do genocides occur under such governments?" 
     
  3. Specific example: Famine in Ukraine: Unknown Holocaust of 1932-33.
    Teacher could introduce topic by: Showing the video "Harvest of Despair". (see resources Appendix A)

    Teacher instructions: 
    It is recommended that the video be shown in 2 segments:

    Part 1. Background information; events leading to Famine (half hour)

    Part 2. Famine and cover-up (half hour) 

    Assignment Part 1

    a) What evidence exists that the Famine was man-made?

    b) What events led to the Famine?

    c) What evidence is there that the Famine was directed specifically against the Ukrainian people?

    d) How many people died as a result of the Famine?

    e) What methods were used by government officials that led to the Famine? 

    Assignment Part 2
    a) Why were Western countries silent about this tragedy in 1932-1933?
    b) Why was there a media cover-up?

    c) Should the perpetrators, Communist Party members, be held accountable for crimes against humanity?  Why or why not?

    d) Suggest ways in which this could be done. 

     

  4. Class could be divided into groups of 5-6 with each group reporting their findings to the entire class, each group supplementing the answers of the previous groups on a chart. Conclusions to be drawn out in class discussion based on findings, Each group is to hand in one page on conclusions reached. 
     
  5. Students are to go over handout singly or in groups, "The Great Famine in Ukraine 1932-33," answering the following: Appendix B

1) What was the reason for the destruction of between 7,000, 000 - 10,000,000 Ukrainians in 1932-33?

2) Why can it be considered to be an example of ethnic cleansing?

3) Explain how some Canadians were connected to events in Ukraine, and how Canada was affected by events in Ukraine in 1932-33. 

4) Why was it possible to cover up the Famine for over 65 years? 

Questions may be used as a guide for a class discussion; results could be checked orally or handed in for marking. 
 
 

  1. Working with case studies of eyewitness accounts. 
    Class is divided into 6 groups:      3 receive case study #1;

                                                              3 receive case study #2.

    Each group is to read the eye witness account of the Famine and pick out the 5 most important facts in the case. Using information from the handout "The Great Famine in Ukraine 1932-33" and the eye witness account, each student is to prepare an article to a newspaper in 1933 explaining what was happening in Ukraine. Be sure to include the following: 

    a) name of newspaper, date
    b) headline for article

    b) author of article,

    c) drawing or illustration if possible.

    d) main points to be made 
    Articles are to be handed in for evaluation. 

  2. Newspaper analysis: Sunday Sun  "Remembering Ukraine's Unknown Holocaust", Eric Margolis, Dec. 13, 1998.

    Answer the following questions:  

    1. What is the reason given by Margolis for the Famine of 1933?
    2. How did Stalin manage to kill so many people?
    3. According to Eric Margolis, why didn't western countries speak out about the Famine?
    4. What evidence does Margolis use to back up his statements? give 3 examples.
    5. Does Margolis present a convincing argument? Why or why not? 
       
  3. Examine photographs reproduced in the Chicago American. Mar 4, 6, 1935. Answer the question, "What were conditions like in Ukraine in 1933?" Give three fact illustrating support for your argument. 

    Additional articles on the Famine: Hunter, Ian "A Tale of Truth and Two Journalists", Report Magazine, Monday March 27, 2000. 

    a) How did Muggeridge and Duranty present events in Ukraine in 1933?
    b) What explanation is given for the discrepancies between the two journalists? 
  4. Teacher information "Black Famine in Ukraine I932-33.' by Andrew Gregorovich. (http://www.infoukes.com/history/famine

 

Resources

  • Gregorovich, Andrew, "Black Famine, In Ukraine 1932-33, "A Struggle for Existence" Forum Ukrainian Review no. 24, 1974.
  • Harvest of Despair" (Canada 1984) 
  • Hunter, Ian, "A Tale of Truth and Two Journalists", Report Magazine. March 27, 2000.
  • Margolis, Eric. "Remembering Ukraine's Unknown Holocaust", Sunday Star. December 13, 1998.
  • USA Ukraine Famine Commission, Case Studies - Tatiana Pawlichka,
  • Sviatoslav Karavansky. Washington, 1986.
  • http://www.infoukes.com/history/famine 

Prepared by Valentina Kuryliw (York Humber High School) TDSB

 

 


Appendix A

HARVEST OF DESPAIR 
The 1932-33 Famine in Ukraine 

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
620 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 2H4
Tel: (416) 966-1819 Fax: 966-1820
ucrdc@interlog.com

 

Part 1

a. What evidence exists that the Famine was man-made?
b. What events within the Soviet Union and Ukraine led to the Famine?

c. What evidence is there that Soviet policy directed specifically against the Ukrainian population?

d. How many people died as a result of the Famine?

e. What methods were used by government officials that led to the Famine? 
Part 2
a) Why were Western countries silent about this tragedy in 1932-337
b) Why was there a media cover-up?

c) Should the perpetrators, Communist Party members, be held accountable for crimes against humanity? Why or why not? Suggest what could be done. 


Appendix B

THE GREAT FAMINE IN UKRAINE, 1932-1933
An Example of Ethnic Cleansing
Valentina Kuryliw 

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. 

History. 

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. 

Causes. 

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.

 

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