The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor)


Witnesses Describe Starvation Among People

In Ukraine and Other Regions


Americans Are Among Those Who Reveal Conditions One Thinks Worst Over


Wireless to The New York Times


BERLIN, Aug. 24 [1933], 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 available grain.

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.


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.


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  Information Service (ARTUIS), Kyiv, Ukraine and Washington, D.C., E. Morgan Williams, Publisher.