By Jeff Coplon, The Village Voice weekly newspaper
New York City, New York, January 12, 1988
Something therefore always remains and sticks from the most impudent
lies.... The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be
believed." -- Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf
The girl is dying. She looks about five years old, but we know she may be
older, diminished by hunger. She leans wearily against a gate. Her long hair
falls lank about bare shoulders. Her head rests against her arm. He neck is
bent, like a stalk in parched earth. Her eyes are the worse -- large and
dark, glazed yet still wistful. The child is dying, starving, and we feel
guilty for our witness...
The Ukrainian Émigresmigrés who made Harvest of Despair knew a gripping image when
they saw one. The black-and-white still, played over an arching, minor-mode
chorus, was chosen to close the Canadian documentary on the Ukrainian famine
of 1932-33. The same photography was used to promote the film, to symbolize
a long-dormant cause calibre: a "man-made" famine, "deliberately engineered"
by Stalin to crush Ukrainian nationalism and cow a stubborn peasantry into
permanent collectivization. Seven million Ukrainians were killed, the
narrator tells us, as "a nation the size of France [was] strangled by
The result, intoned William F. Buckley, whose Firing Line showed the film
last November, was "perhaps the greatest holocaust of the century."
The term "holocaust" still burns the ears, even in our jaded time. As we
watch the film and see corpses piled in fields, bloated bodies sprawled in
streets, pale skeletons grasping for bits of bread, we wonder: How can such
a terrible story have been suppressed so long?
Here is how: The story is a fraud.
The starving girl, it turns out, wasn't found in 1932 or 1933, nor in the
Ukraine. Her pictures was taken from a Red Cross bulletin on the 1921-22
Volga famine, for which no one claims genocide. Rather than an emblem of
persecution, the photograph advances the most cynical of swindles -- a hoax
played out from the White House and Congress through the halls of Harvard to
the New York State Department of Education. Pressing every pedal, pulling
all the strings, is a Ukrainian nationalist lobby straining to cloak its own
history of Nazi collaboration. By revising their past, these ╚migr╚s help
support a more ambitious revisionism: a denial of Hitler's holocaust against
There was indeed a famine in the Ukraine in the early 1930s. It appears
likely that hundreds of thousands, possibly one or two million, Ukrainians
died -- the minority from starvation, the majority from related diseases. By
any scale, this is an enormous toll of human suffering. By general
consensus, Stalin was partially responsible. By any stretch of an honest
imagination, the tragedy still falls short of genocide.
In 1932, the Soviet Union was in crisis. The cities had suffered food
shortages since 1928. Grain was desperately needed for export and foreign
capital, both to fuel the first Five-Year Plan and to counter the growing
war threat from Germany. In addition, the Communist Party's left wing, led
by Stalin, had come to reject the New Economic Plan, which restored market
capitalism to the countryside in the 1920s.
In this context, collectivization was more than a vehicle for a cheap and
steady grain supply to the state. It was truly a "revolution from above," a
drastic move towards socialism, and an epochal change in the mode of
production. There were heavy casualties on both sides -- hundreds of
thousands of kulaks (rich peasants) deported to the north, thousands of
party activists assassinated. Production superseded politics, and many
peasants were coerced rather than won to collective farms. Vast disruption
of the 1932 harvest ensued (and not only in the Ukraine), and many areas
were hard-pressed to meet the state's grain requisition quotas.
Again, Stalin and the Politburo played major roles. "But there is plenty of
blame to go around," as Sovietologist John Arch Getty recently noted in The
London Review of Books. "It must be shared by the tens of thousands of
activists and officials who carried out the policy and by the peasants who
chose to slaughter animals, burn fields, and boycott cultivation in
Such a balanced analysis, however, has never satisfied Ukrainian
nationalists in the United States and Canada, for whom the "terror-famine"
is an article of faith and communal rallying point. For decades after the
fact, their obsession was confined to émigré journals. Only of late has it
achieved a sort of mainstream credibility -- in Harvest of Despair, shown on
PBS and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and at numerous college
campuses; in The Harvest of Sorrow, an Oxford University Press account by
Robert Conquest; in a "human rights" curriculum, now available to every
10th-grade social studies teacher in New York State; and in the
federally-funded Ukraine Famine Commission, now into its second year of
After 50 years on the fringe, the Ukraine famine debate is finally front and
center. While one-note faminologists may teach us little real history, they
reveal how our sense of history is pulled by political fashion until it
hardens into the taffy of conventional wisdom. And how you can fool most of
the people most of the time -- especially when you tell them what they want
Harvest of Despair was the brainchild of Marco Carynnyk, a Ukrainian
translator and poet who lives in Toronto. In 1983, Carynnyk found a sponsor
in St. Vladimir's Institute, which formed a Ukrainian Famine Research
Committee of well-to-do émigrés. The committee raised $200,000 for the
documentary, including a major grant from the Ukrainian Canadian Committee
(a spiritual descendant of the fascist Organization of Ukrainian
Nationalists), and a loan from the similarly right-wing World Congress of
As chief researcher for the film, Carynnyk had two major functions -- to
locate and interview famine survivors, and to find archival photographs.
Talking heads would not be enough to make a case for genocide. To gain its
intended shock value, the film would have to show what the famine was like.
"There can be no question," assessed the Winnipeg Free Press, "that without
the films and photographs uncovered from the 1932-33 famine, the film would
lose much of its authority."
"I gave them two sets of photographs," Carynnyk said. "I told them, `Here
are the ones from the 1930s, and here are the ones from 1921-22.' But in the
cutting of the film, they were all mixed up. I said this can't be done, that
it will leave the film open to criticism... My complaints were ignored. They
just didn't think it was important."
One problem, Carynnyk said, was that producer Slawko Nowitski faced an
impossible five-month deadline to ready the film during the famine's 50th
anniversary. (In fact, Harvest of Despair would not be completed until late
1984). But the researcher believes it was more than mere sloppiness at work.
"The research committee was more interested in propagandistic purposes than
historical scholarship," said Carynnyk, who has sued the Famine Research
Committee for copyright violation. "They were quite prepared to cut corners
to get their point across."
In October 1983, Carynnyk left the project -- "relieved of his duties,"
according to Nowitsky, "because he did not produce the required material."
Three years and seven awards later, the lid blew last November at a meeting
of the Toronto Board of Education, where terror-famine proponents were
pressing to include the film in the city's high school curriculum. The show
stopped cold when Doug Tottle, former editor of a Winnipeg labor magazine,
stood up and declared that "90 per cent" of the film's archival photographs
were plagiarized from the 1921-22 famine.
Tottle traced several of the most graphic photos, including that of the
starving girl, to famine relief sources of the 1920s. (Some of these
resurfaced in 1933 as anti-Soviet propaganda in VĂlkischer Beobachter, an
official Nazi party organ). Other pictures were lifted from the 1936 edition
of Human Life in Russia, by Ewald Ammende, an Austrian relief worker in the
earlier Volga famine. Ammende attributes them to a "Dr. F. Dittloff," a
German engineer who supposedly took the photos in the summer of 1933. The
Dittloff pictures have their own bastard pedigrees --three from 1922
Geneva-based relief bulletins, others from Nazi publications.
Still other Dittloffs were also claimed as original by Robert Green, a phony
journalist and escaped convict who provided famine material to the
Hearst chain in 1935. Green, a convicted forger who used the alias "Thomas
Walker," reported that he took the photos in the spring of 1934 -- almost a
year after the Ukraine famine had ended, and in direct contradiction of
Although Green was exposed by The Nation and several New York dailies by
1935, right-wing ╚migr╚s have used his spurious photos for decades. "It's
not that these pictures were suddenly discovered in 1983 and accidentally
misdated" in the film, Tottle noted.
Tottle had done his homework. Carynnyk confirmed that "very few" photos in
Harvest of Despair could be authenticated, and that none of the famine film
footage was from 1932-33. But the Ukrainian Famine Research Committee
decided to stonewall. At first they insisted that any photos from the 1920s
were used only when the film discussed the Volga famine -- a blatant
evasion, since that segment lasts a scant 28 seconds and uses only two still
photos, neither especially potent. Committee chairman Wasyl Janischewskyj
recently softened that stance: "We have researched further and made
discoveries that some photos we thought were from 1932-33 were not ... We
are now having further deep investigations of these pictures."
In the main, however, the filmmakers have sought to justify their fraud.
"You have to have visual impact," said Orest Subtelny, the film's historic
adviser. "You want to show what people dying from a famine look like.
Starving children are starving children." A documentary, added producer
Nowitski, must rely on "emotional truth" more than literal facts.
"These people have never attempted to refute my claims," said Tottle. (His
book on the subject, Fraud, Famine, and Fascism, will be published this fall
by Toronto's Progressive Books, an outlet for Soviet releases). "They have
tried to lie and cover it up, but they have not tried to refute it."
Nor have the nationalists refuted Tottle's contention that several
"witnesses" in the film were Nazi collaborators, including two German
diplomats who served in the Third Reich and an Orthodox Church layman who
blessedly rose to bishop while the Third Reich occupied the Ukraine in 1942.
"Just because they're collaborators," countered Nowitski, "does that mean we
cannot believe anything they tell us? Just because they're Nazis is no
reason to doubt the authenticity of what happened."
This slant pervades émigré research on the famine. Soviet sources are
rejected out of hand, while Nazi sources (or known liars like Walker and
Dittloff) are accepted unconditionally. In the GĂbbels tradition, the
nationalists' brief always serves their anti-Communism --no matter how many
facts twist slowly in the process. Harvest of Despair follows unholy
footsteps, and never breaks stride.
According to a 1978 article in The Guardian of London, Robert Conquest got
his big break shortly after World War II, when he joined the Information
Research Department of the British Foreign Office. Staffed heavily by
émigrés, the IRD's mission was a covert "propaganda counter-offensive"
against the Soviet Union. It was heady, hands-on work for a young writer, a
chance to slant media coverage of Russia by adding political "spin" to
Eastern bloc press releases and funneling them to top reporters. The
journalists knew little about the IRD, beyond the names of their mysterious
contacts. The public knew nothing at all, even as their opinions were being
After Conquest left the IRD in 1956, the agency suggested that he package
some of his handiwork into a book. That first compilation was distributed in
the US by Fred Praeger, who had previously published several books at the
request of the CIA.
The shy and courtly Conquest has come a long way since then, from gray
propagandist to éminence grise. He is now a senior research fellow at the
Hoover Institute at Stanford, as well as an associate of Harvard's Ukrainian
Research Institute. But his heart and his pen never left the IRD. The Soviet
Union would be Conquest's lifetime obsession. He churned out book after book
on the horrors of communism: The Nation Killer, Where Marx Went Wrong,
Kolyma: the Arctic Death Camps. His landmark work of 1968, The Great Terror,
focused on Stalin's purges of the late 1930s. But by 1984, his work had
turned surreal; What To Do When the Russians Come was the literary
equivalent of that politico-teen-disaster flick, Red Dawn. Yet he remained a
mainstream heavyweight, coasting on reputation, his excesses accepted as
Free World zeal.
In 1981, the Ukrainian Research Institute approached Conquest with a major
project: a book on the 1932-33 famine. The pot was sweetened by an $80,000
subside from the Ukrainian National Association, a New Jersey-based group
with a venerable, hard-right tradition; the UNA's newspaper, Swoboda, was
banned by Canada during World War II for its pro-German sympathies. (The
grant was earmarked for Conquest's research expenses, including the
assistance of James Mace, a junior fellow at the URI).
The nationalists knew they'd be getting their money's worth. At the time,
faminology was virgin ground. There was little source material available,
since the Soviet archives remain sealed. More to the point, most non-╚migr╚
historians viewed the 1932-33 famine as an outgrowth of collectivization,
not a political phenomenon of itself, much less a stab at genocide. But
Conquest was different. In his Terror book, he'd already concluded that more
than three million Ukrainians were killed by the famine. Here, clearly, was
the right man for the job, a man who once stated: "Truth can thus only
percolate in the form of hearsay ... basically the best, though not
infallible, source is rumor." And with no one on record to dispute the
issue, Conquest's rumors could rule.
In The Harvest of Sorrow, Conquest outdoes himself. He weaves his
terror-famine from unverifiable (and notoriously biased) émigré accounts. He
leans on reportage from ex-Communist converts to the American Way. He cites
both "Walker" and Ammende. Black Deeds of the Kremlin, a period piece
published by Ukrainian émigrés in 1953, is footnoted no less than 145 times.
Conquest can be deftly selective when it suits his purpose. He borrows
heavily from Lev Kopelev's The Education of a True Believer, but ignores
Kopelev when the latter recalls Ukrainian villages that were relatively
untouched by famine, or relief efforts by a Communist village council.
By confirming people's worst suspicions of Stalin's rule, The Harvest of
Sorrow has won favorable reviews from The New York Times, The New Republic,
and The New York Review of Books. But leading scholars on this era are less
impressed. They challenge Conquest's contention that Ukrainian priests and
intelligentsia -- two major counterrevolutionary camps -- were repressed
more ruthlessly than anywhere else in the country. They point out that the
1932-33 famine was hardly confined to the Ukraine, that it reached deep into
the Black Earth region of central Russia. They note that Stalin had far less
control over collectivization than is widely assumed, and that radical
district leaders made their own rules as they went along.
Most vehemently of all, these experts reject Conquest's hunt for a new
holocaust. The famine was a terrible thing, they agree, but it decidedly was
"There is no evidence it was intentionally directed against Ukrainians,"
said Alexander Dallin of Stanford, the father of modern Sovietology. "That
would be totally out of keeping with what we know -- it makes no sense."
"This is crap, rubbish," said Moshe Lewin of the University of Pennsylvania,
whose Russian Peasants and Soviet Power broke new ground in social history.
"I am an anti- Stalinist, but I don't see how this [genocide] campaign adds
to our knowledge. It's adding horrors, adding horrors, until it becomes a
"I absolutely reject it," said Lynne Viola of SUNY- Binghamton, the first US
historian to examine Moscow's Central State Archive on collectivization.
"Why in god's name would this paranoid government consciously produce a
famine when they were terrified of war [with Germany]?"
These premier Sovietologists dismiss Conquest for what he is -- an ideologue
whose serious work is long behind him. But Dallin stands as a liberal
exception to the hard-liners of his generation, while Lewin and Viola remain
Young Turks who happen to be doing the freshest work on this period. In
Soviet studies, where rigor and objectivity count for less than the party
line, where fierce anti-Communists still control the prestigious institutes
and first-rank departments, a Conquest can survive and prosper while barely
cracking a book.
"He's terrible at doing research," said veteran Sovietologist Roberta
Manning of Boston College." He misuses sources, he twists everything."
Then there are those who love to twist, and shout --to use scholarly
disinformation for their own, less dignified purposes. In the latest
catalogue for the Noontide Press, a Liberty Lobby affiliate run by
flamboyant fascist Willis Carto, The Harvest of Sorrow is listed
cheek-by-jowl with such revisionist tomes as The Auschwitz Myth and Hitler
At My Side. To hype the Conquest book and its terror-famine, the catalogue
notes: "The act of genocide against the Ukrainian people has been suppressed
[sic] until recently, perhaps because a real `Holocaust' might compete with
For those unacquainted with Noontide jargon, the "Holohoax" refers to the
Nazi slaughter of six million Jews.
In 1982, the New York State Department of Education set out to blaze a new
trail: a definitive curriculum on the Nazi holocaust. The department
assembled a distinguished review committee, including such Holocaust experts
as Terrence Des Pres and Raul Hilberg. It assigned the actual writing to
three top-rated social studies teachers. The finished two- volume project,
which went to classrooms in the fall of 1985, does credit to everyone
involved. It is a balanced mix of archival documents, survivor memoirs, and
But a funny thing happened on the way to the high schools: The Ukrainian
nationalists stole the show. Their point man was Bohdan Vitvitsky, a New
Jersey attorney and author who was invited to join the state's advisory
council, which would steer the curriculum's development. Vitvitsky's first
move was to gain inclusion of an excerpt of his book on Slavic victims of
the nazis. His second victory was to eliminate all but passing mention of
Ukrainian war criminals.
"I took the position they should be dealt with, "said Stephen Berk, a Union
College history professor and advisory council member, "but Vitvitsky
insisted there should be no dwelling on [Nazi] collaborators." (The Catholic
lobby didn't fare so well: over its protests, the curriculum includes a
critical assessment of Pope Pus XII's inaction.)
But Vitvitsky's major coup, helped along by a nationalist letter campaign,
was to install material on the Ukraine famine of 1932-33. In the
curriculum's second draft in 1984, the famine was treated as a 17-page
precursor chapter to the second Holocaust volume -- a plan which met heated
resistance from Jewish groups. By the time the material reached the schools
last fall, however, it had swollen into a separate third volume, with 90
pages on the "forced famine," and another 52 on "human rights violations" in
A key player in the transition was Assemblyman William Larkin (Conservative
Republican, New Windsor), a retired Army colonel, assistant minority whip,
and old friend of Gordon Ambach, then the state commissioner of education.
Larkin had ample incentive to help; his district contains about 8000 ethnic
Ukrainians. He arranged "four or five" meetings between the state education
staff and 20 upstate Ukrainian nationalists in 1985. He also enlisted other
Republican assemblymen to press for the famine book, and says he spoke
personally to Ambach.
The commissioner "offered to do anything he could," Larkin said. "But if we
didn't go up there in force, if we didn't push it, it wouldn't have
By most accounts, the political pressure was intense -- enough to squeeze a
department deemed relatively apolitical. The Ukrainians mounted "an enormous
letter-writing campaign with the Board of Regents," said Robert Maurer, the
executive deputy commissioner. "There were phone calls and visits. There's
not often that much interest in curriculum matters; it was very unusual."
The famine boosters found an especially sympathetic ear in Regent Emlyn I.
Griffith, then chairman of the committee that unanimously endorsed Volume
Three in 1985 -- a vote which ensured its future use. "As a member of a
minority people put down by a majority government, I empathized" with the
Ukrainian nationalists, said Griffith, an ethnic Welshman. "There was s
significant lobbying effort ... It was persuasive. It wasn't threatening, it
It's difficult to pinpoint exactly who made the fatal decision on Volume
Three. Griffith said his committee acted on a strong staff recommendation.
Ambach failed to return phone calls for this story. Maurer lodged
responsibility with Deputy Commissioner Gerald Freeborne, who in turn
pointed to Program Development Director Edward Lalor, who referred questions
to a low-level official named George Gregory, the chairman of the Human
Rights Series advisory committee.
Shrouded by this corporate haze, Vitvitsky ran in an open field. No one
challenged his basic premise. The famine `certainly does represent another
example of genocide," Gregory asserted. "It was a planned attempt by Stalin
to eliminate the Ukrainian people."
("George is the consummate bureaucrat," said one educator involved with the
series. "His experience is mainly in grade- school -curricula -- like
`Appreciating Our Indian Heritage,' or `The importance of the Finger Lakes
Region.' when I started up there, he really didn't know anything about the
To write the famine material, Gregory hired Walter Litynsky, a Troy High
School biology teacher and a local chairman of Americans for Human Rights in
Ukraine. For the job of principal reviewer Litynsky recommended James Mace,
the Conquest protégé who also directs the Ukraine Famine Commission under a
$382,000 congressional appropriation. Mace and Litynsky proceeded to stack
the review committee with Ukrainian academics, the omnipresent Vitvitsky,
and four upstate nationalists. "No contrary [review] letters were either
solicited or received," Berk acknowledged. "I'm sorry this came out, because
it was distorted -- but I felt it was a fait accompli."
When asked about contrasting viewpoints from such scholars as Lewin and
Viola, Gregory was unmoved. "Quite frankly, we have not heard of any of
them," he said. "We tried to present a balanced point of view. We didn't ask
for the soviet opinion, since the soviet view was that the famine never
happened. [In fact, the Soviets now concede that a famine was "impossible to
avoid," because of drought, mismanagement, and kulak sabotage.] We relied
heavily on James Mace; he's the leading historian of that time period."
This paean would startle academe, where Mace's work is infrequently read and
rarely found in footnotes, the baseline of a scholar's importance. He is
widely regarded as a right-wing polemicist, an indifferent researcher who
has made a checkered career out of faminology.
"I doubt he could have gotten a real academic job," Manning said. "Soviet
studies is a very competitive field these days -- there's much weeding out
after the Ph.D. If he hadn't hopped on this political cause, he would be
doing research for a bank, or running an export-import business."
The Mace-Litynsky partnership yielded a predictable end product -- the
undistilled nationalist line. The state curriculum on the Ukraine famine
apes both Harvest of Despair and The Harvest of Sorrow. (The education
department now supplies the embattled documentary, as an audiovisual
supplement, to any interested teacher.) Like the film and the book, the
curriculum features faked photos from Ammende, dubious atrocity tales
(including 16 selections from Black Deeds of the Kremlin), and sections of
the "Walker" Hearst series, all without caveat. Like Conquest and Nowitski,
the famine volume red-baits anyone who challenged the genocide scenario,
such as New York Times reporter Walter Duranty. It goes Conquest one better
by referring to the region as Ukraine, with no article, in deference to a
sovereignty that exists only in nationalist fables.
The curriculum is most obviously exposed in its estimate of the famine death
toll: "..it is generally accepted that about 7 million Ukrainians or about
22% of the total Ukrainian population died of starvation in a government-
planned and -controlled famine."
How did Litynsky arrive at this talismanic figure, cited over and over again
in émigré literature? "I don't pretend to be an expert on this subject," the
biology teacher said. "This is not my field. I had a list of people who went
from 1.5 million to 10 million. In my reading I saw seven million used more
than any other figure, and I decided that was realistic. It got to the point
where it was so confusing that you had to decide." (Mace has opted for 7.9
million Ukrainian famine deaths in his own work, with an "irreducible
minimum" of 5.5 million. Conquest fixes on seven million famine deaths,
including six million Ukrainians, with no appendix to show how his numbers
But the magic number, like the genocide theory it shoulders, simply can't
pass scrutiny. Sergei Maksudov, a Soviet ╚migr╚ scholar much cited by Mace
and Conquest, has now concluded that the famine caused 3.5 million premature
deaths in the Ukraine -- 700,000 from starvation, and the rest from diseases
"stimulated" by malnutrition.
Even Maksudov's lower estimates are open to challenge. Writing in Slavic
Review, demographers Barbara Anderson and Brian Silver maintain that limited
census data make a precise famine death count impossible. Instead, they
offer a probable range of 3.2 to 5.5 million "excess deaths" for the entire
Soviet Union from 1926 to 1939 -- a period that covers collectivization, the
civil war in the countryside, the purges of the late `30s, and major
epidemics of typhus and malaria.
According to these experts, and Maksudov as well, Mace and Conquest make
the most primitive of errors: They overestimate fertility rates and
impact of assimilation, through which many Ukrainians were "redesignated"
as Russians in the 1939 census. As a result, the cold warriors confuse
population deficits (which included unborn children) with excess deaths.
Which leaves us with a puzzle: Wouldn't one or two or 3.5 million
famine-related deaths be enough to make an anti- Stalinist argument? Why
seize a wildly inflated figure that can't possibly be supported? The answer
tells much about the Ukrainian nationalist cause, and about those who abet
"they're always looking to come up with a number bigger than six million,"
observed Eli Rosenbaum, general counsel for the World Jewish Congress. "It
makes the reader think: `My god it's worse than the Holocaust.'"
Your husband's courage and dedication to liberty will serve as a continuing
source of inspiration to all those striving for freedom and
-- letter from President Reagan to the widow of Yaroslav Stetsko, ranking
OUN terrorist, murderer, and Nazi collaborator, read by retired general John
Singlaub at a conference of the World Anti-Communist League, September 7,
In the panel discussion that followed Harvest of Despair on PBS last fall,
Conquest addressed the issue of Ukrainian war crimes. "It's not the case,"
he said blandly, "that the Ukrainian nationalist organizations collaborated
with the Germans."
Once again, the aging faminologist had tripped on the public record. It is
one thing to suggest, rightly, that Ukrainian nationalism had little popular
support among the peasantry. (It was actually a narrow, urban, middle-class
movement.) Millions of Ukrainians fought with the Red Army and partisans.
Many others can be accused of nothing worse than indifference, and a smaller
number risked their lives to save Jews from the Germans. But on the matter
of the OUN, the principal nationalist group from the 1930s on, the record is
quite clear: It was fascist from the start.
In its original statement of purpose in 1929, the OUN betrays a raw Nazi
influence: "Do not hesitate to commit the greatest crime, if the good of the
Cause demands it ... Aspire to expand the strength, riches, and size of the
Ukrainian State even by means of enslaving foreigners." This sentiment was
echoed in a 1941 letter to the German Secret Service from the OUN's dominant
Bandera wing: "Long live greater independent Ukraine without Jews, Poles,
and Germans. Poles behind the [river] San, Germans to Berlin, Jews to the
As the authoritative John Armstrong, a staunch anti- Communist and
pro-Ukrainian, has written: "The theory and teachings of the Nationalists
were very close to Fascism, and in some respects, such as the insistence on
`racial purity,' even went beyond the original Fascist doctrines."
But the OUN storm troopers, like any terrorist group, prized action over
theory. Their wartime brutalities have been amply documented (Voice,
February 11, 1986, "To Catch a Nazi,"). They recruited for the Waffen SS,
pulled the triggers at Babi Yar and Sobibor, ran the gas chamber at
Treblinka. During their brief interludes of Nazi-sponsored "independence"
(in the Carpatho-Ukraine in 1939 and in Galicia in 1941), pogroms were the
order of the day, in the spirit of their revered Simon Petlura. They strove
to outdo the Nazis at every turn.
And when the Third Reich fell, the nationalists fled -- to Munich, to
Toronto, and (with the covert aid of the US State Department, which viewed
them as potential anti-Soviet guerrillas) to New York and Chicago and
This is not ancient history. The Ukrainian ╚migr╚ groups still contain more
than a few former OUN members, and many of their sons and daughters. The
nationalists still heroize their wartime past. On occasion their old
passions surface as well -- as in Why Is One Holocaust Worth More Than
Others?, recently published by "Veterans of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army:
"In 1933, the majority of the European and American press controlled by the
Jews were silent about the famine."
From this perspective, the "conspiracy" lives on: "In (February) 1986 the
Jewish newspaper Village Voice ... published one-and-one-half pages of
accusations against a high-standing member of the Ukrainian nationalist
movement, Mykola Lebed."
And finally, most transparently: "Tens of millions of people have been
killed since the Zionist Bolshevik Jews, backed by the Zionist-oriented
Jewish international bankers, took over Russia."
Not surprisingly, Ukrainian émigrés are among the harshest and most powerful
critics of Nazi-hunting. They have sought to kill both the Justice
Department's Office of Special Investigations and the Canadian Deschenes
Commission -- and with good reason. Sol Littman, director of the Simon
Wiesenthal Center in Toronto, recently presented the commission with the
names of 475 suspected Nazi collaborator. He reports that Ukrainians were
"very heavily represented" on the list.
It may not be sheer coincidence that faminology took wing just after the OSI
was commissioned in 1979. For here was a way to rehabilitate fascism -- to
prove that Ukrainian collaborators were helpless victims, caught between the
rock of Hitler and Stalin's hard place. To wit, this bit of
psycho-journalism from the March 24 Washington Post, in a story on accused
war criminal John "Ivan the Terrible" Demjanjuk: "The pivotal event in
Demjanjuk's childhood was the great famine of the early 1930s, conceived by
Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin as a way of destroying the independent
Ukrainian peasantry ... Several members of [Demjanjuk's] family died in the
Coupled with the old nationalist canard of "Judeo- Bolshevism," faminology
could help justify anti-Semitism, collaboration, even genocide. An eye for
an eye; a Nazi holocaust in return for a "Jewish famine."
Just as the Nazis used the OUN for their own ends, so has Reagan exploited
the famine, from his purple-prosed commemoration of "this callous act" to
his backing of the Mace commission. Faced with failing fascist allies around
the world, from Nicaragua to South Africa, the US war lobby needs to boost
anti-Communism as never before. Public enthusiasm to fight for the contras
will not come easy. But if people could be convinced that Communism is worse
than fascism; that Stalin was an insane monster, even worse than Hitler;
that the seven million died in more unspeakable agony than the six million
... Well, we just might be set up for the next Gulf of Tonkin. One cannot
appease an Evil Empire, after all.
As Conquest noted on PBS, after the starving girl's image finally faded from
the screen: "This was a true picture we saw ... It instructs us about the
It turns out that the picture is far from true -- that the purveyors of a
famine genocide are stealing a piece of history and slicing it to order.
It's a brash bit of larceny for Conquest and company, even within the
prevailing vogue of anti-Stalinism. But if they say it loud enough and long
enough, people just might listen. Lie bold enough and large enough, and --
as the man once said -- it just might stick.
By Jeff Coplon, The Village Voice weekly newspaper
New York City, New York, January 12, 1988.
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