Witnesses Describe Starvation Among People
In Ukraine and Other Regions
CANNIBALISM IS REPORTED
Americans Are Among Those Who Reveal
Conditions One Thinks Worst Over
By FREDERICK T. BIRCHALL
Wireless to The New York Times
BERLIN, Aug. 24 , The food scarcity in Russia [Ukraine] is
beginning to attract general attention in Germany. The papers are
printing news about the terrible conditions known to exist in Russian
[Ukraine] agricultural sections, were food should be plentiful, but is
not, even yet, owing to last year's collections by the government of all
The German collection of funds to relieve distress among Russo-German
inhabitants of the Ukraine and other sections of being intensified, although
at this time the new Russian [Ukraine] grain crop should become available.
There is some apprehension here that the new crop may be insufficient.
As no publication takes place in Germany without a motive, this one
may be due to the fact that the prospects for the coming Winter in
Germany are none too roseats. It may be desired to show the people
how much worse they could be under communism than under Hitlerism.
It is a fact that conditions under the two outstanding dictatorships in
Europe are pretty doleful, and here they may become worse.
TRAVELERS TELL OF SIGHTS
Yesterday, on the invitation of the German Evangelical Press Association,
several travelers just back from Russia told German newspaper men
some of the things they had seen there. Their talk was widely published
today, and the revelations of what they had seen in the last few weeks
indicate that the recent estimate of 4,000,000 deaths due indirectly to
malnutrition in agricultural Russia [Ukraine] in recent months may be
rather an understatement than an exaggeration.
The speakers were two Russo-German fugitives and an American,
Walter Becherer, of the First Wisconsin National Bank in Milwaukee.
As witnesses of indescribable misery, they were united in the assertion
that the present Russian [Ukraine] famine, euphemistically called a food
shortage, has equaled if it has not exceeded that catastrophe of twelve
years ago, with consequences which cannot wholly be wiped out even
by a good harvest in Southern Russia [Ukraine] this year.
All had traveled in the flat county and beyond Odessa, and they
reported that the further they went into the interior the greater was the
misery. They spoke of starved children with emaciated limbs and
swollen abdomens who were seen along the railroad track, not
occasionally, but as a common spectacle; of field mice being in
demand for food and of thousands unable to work from
undernourishment and being, therefore, deprived of rations on the
ground of laziness.
One of the Russo-Germans told of two German villages in Southern
Russia [Ukraine] in which half of the population had died of starvation.
They had letters and photographs of villages, women and children to
support their stories. Dr. Ehrt, leader of the Evangelical Press
Association, announced that the Reich committee for "brothers in
need" had already helped 12,000 German families and that the fund
was still collecting funds.
To the writer today Mr. Becherer, who was in Russia [Ukraine]
as a tourist under regular auspices, said it was almost impossible to
exaggerate the seriousness of present conditions in the Ukraine, but
that it was most difficult to give details owing to the obstacles placed
in his way. In Odessa he complained to his guides that they always
took him from his hotel through the same streets. They replied that
tourists were not permitted to go into side streets. The reason, Mr.
Becherer said, was obvious.
He visited the children's hospital outside the city and was appalled
by the spectacle of the undernourished children he saw there. There
were many stories of cannibalism in the region which he believed
to be authentic, he said. In fact, while he was there a mother was
on trial for killing and eating her four children. The disappearance of
three children was admitted, but the evidence concerned the killing
of the fourth, and the woman's only defense was that this child would
have died in a day or two anyway.
Mr. Becherer confirmed the Russo-German fugitives' stories on the
wiping out of two German Ukrainian villages with populations
averaging about 1,000. In one village, he said, there had been nearly
400 deaths, from malnutrition and in the other not quite so many.
The survivors were transported to labor camps in the Urals.
He emphasized, however, that statistics were not available and that
detailed observation was difficult. In the cities spies were at every
corner. Red Army detachments were omnipresent, and even in the
country airplanes were constantly flying over the fields. He was
told that the planes were on guard against "enemies" but he deduced
from the fact that assemblies of every kind were forbidden that the
planes were there to prevent the people from meeting, even out in
the open in fields.
HOLDS WORST IS OVER
Whiting William of Cleveland, known in the United States as a
compiler of surveys of industrial and labor conditions, also
returned from Russia today. He declined to discuss what he had
seen, explaining that he intended to write his observations for
American consumption. But his conversations generally confirmed
what had been told by other travelers. He did indicate that in his
opinion, owing to the very good harvest, the worst was over.
Travelers generally stress the statement that nobody will ever
know how many people have died of starvation in Russia [Ukraine]
this year because the victims, after collapsing in their homes or in
the open, are certified to have died of heart disease or exposure
to other ailments.
It has been known here for some time that travel in Russia [Ukraine]
has been greatly restricted. Even foreign correspondents are
forbidden to leave Moscow without special permission. A
NEW YORK TIMES correspondent in another capital who
recently wished to spend a holiday in Russia applied for the usual
tourist's visa but was informed it could not be granted as there was
a general prohibition against journalists traveling as tourists.
An American correspondent stationed in Moscow who asked for
a visa to return there via Odessa was told it would be granted to
him there but on condition that he pledge himself not to leave the
train en route.
The New York Times, Friday, August 25, 1933, L 7.
This historical material has been researched, edited, and processsed
by the www.ArtUkraine.com Information Service (ARTUIS), Kyiv,
Ukraine and Washington, D.C., E. Morgan Williams, Publisher.
FOR PERSONAL AND ACADEMIC USE ONLY