A 21st Century Resource Center

The Mercer County Holocaust-Genocide Resource Center is located on the West Windsor, NJ, campus of Mercer County Community College. We are dedicated to providing the most current resources on Holocaust and genocide education for the 21st Century classroom. Learn more about us at

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holodomor: Death by Hunger

Many of us do not realize that Stalin killed more people than Hitler.  Millions more.  The two evil dictators rose to power around the same time, making it seem as if they were in contest, spending the 1930s and 1940s trying to one-up the other's death rates on a daily basis.  However, by the time Hitler finally got around to having himself officially appointed Chancellor in 1933, Stalin was already hard at work crushing the occupied proletariat of the Ukraine.

Ukraine had been a part of the Soviet Union since 1922.  In 1928, Stalin imposed a system of collective farming.  When the Ukranian farmers opposed handing over their land and produce to the State, Stalin sent in the Army with the order to "liquidate them as a class".  The Ukranian farmers' crime?  "Bourgeois nationalism."  The ones who weren't packed into cattle cars bound for Siberia remained behind to watch as their grain was shipped off to the USSR's urban centers, made into alcohol, and sold overseas.

Millions died of starvation; the survivors called the horror the Holodomor (Death by Hunger).  Figures range anywhere from 4 to 10 million deaths between 1929-1933.  We don't have exact figures because, unlike his Nazi counterpart, Stalin didn't contract IBM to count the bodies. 

The Soviet Union received international help in writing off the crime as mere peasant propaganda.  Walter Duranty, Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist at the New York Times wrote, “Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda. There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.”  (No student of Holocaust history should be surprised at the Times' apparent lack of journalistic integrity.)  His love for Stalin won Duranty his Pulitzer in 1932 - at the height of the famine.

In fact, were it not for British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, the world may still not believe the horrors that happened in the Ukraine.  Taking an unauthorized train trip into the former breadbasket of the Soviet Union, Muggeridge sent a series of dispatches back to England detailing the horrors that he witnessed.  Yet, at the time, most of them were ignored.  Muggeridge eventually lost his job and his credibility.  His own family members denounced him as a liar while defending the Soviet Union.  Duranty led the charge against him, all the while admitting off the record that 10 million had died - "but they were only Russians."

This year the White House issued a statement marking Holodomor Remembrance Day.  Several world courts and governmental organizations have defined the Holodomor as a genocide.  In fact, it is illegal to refer to it as anything but a genocide in the Ukraine.  Yet the Holodomor still has its share of deniers thanks to decades of Soviet denial of the atrocity, supported by prominent western figures like Duranty.

In 2003, the Pulitzer Prize Committee deliberated on revoking Duranty's prize.  While the board "determined that Mr. Duranty's 1931 work, measured by today's standards for foreign reporting, falls seriously short.  ... the board concluded that there was not clear and convincing evidence of deliberate deception" on the part of Mr. Duranty.

Monday, November 28, 2011

This is Your Life

The nifty fifties.

Today's history students are given the impression that a mere five years after the Holocaust ended a new era dawned in America; an era defined by big turquoise cars, lavish suburban living, and some guy that everyone liked named Ike.  Nothing solidifies this imaginary picture of the past more than the television shows made popular by baby boomers the nation over. 

Each week, Ralph Edwards - a chummy, average sort of guy you'd imagine meeting at your dad's company picnic - would walk through a live studio audience filled with people giggling over the chance at  their 15 minutes of fame on postwar America's greatest invention: the television.  They didn't have to perform derranged site gags or call a friend for a cue to win five grand; they just had to be willing to step on stage, sit in a puffy chair, and have their life story shared on live TV. 

Mind you, these were the days before Jerry Springer.  The fine folks at NBC actually wanted you to keep your dirty laundry at home in your hampers, thank you very much.  After all, the Nifty Fifties had a reputation to maintain.  The politics may have been cold, but everything was calm and peaceful and it was going to stay that way.  Just ask Hanna Bloch Kohner, Mr. Edwards's guest on the May 27, 1953, episode of This Is Your Life:

I once read that the 1950s were so seemingly perfect because the parents of the baby boomer generation had grown up in the Great Depression and lived through the horrors of World War II.  Naturally, they wanted the world to be a perfect place for their children.  Mrs. Kohner's biography aired at 10 pm, late enough so that the kiddies were in bed, but early enough to ensure that the survivors of depression and war would remember that to strive for perfection one must never forget how horrible an imperfect world can be.