On dupes, Nazis & Stalinists:
Here’s a letter from Orysia Tracz (National Post, May.26, 2003):
“Re: Nazi Victims, letter, May 23.
I am a child of slave labourers from Ukraine who worked in Germany during the Second World War. I know many Ukrainians with tattooed numbers on their arms. I know the families of those who did not survive the concentration camps. All the rest of her life, my mother was haunted by the Gestapo gallows set up in every village and town square, with the bodies left hanging as a reminder not to resist. For a nation subjugated and ruled by Poland and Russia, Ukrainians did not even have a Quisling government, as did other states in Europe. Ukraine was an economic colony of the Reich, with even the black soil being transported west, along with the cattle cars of people.
Ron Podolny should do more research. Nazi documents say more than enough about the Nazi attitude and actions toward the Untermenschen, the sub-humans of Ukraine.”
Here is Erik White’s article "We never forget" about the Ukrainian famine-genocide (St. Catharines Standard, (Aug.2, 2003):
“Bread is sacred in Ukraine. Revered even. If a slice falls to the floor, it is quickly picked up and instinctively kissed before being put back on the plate.
They still made bread in the fall of 1932. They just changed the recipe a little.
Many fashioned wild nettles into a type of thin, papery bread. Others ground flour from milky, unripened wheat. Some formed loaves from mashed wild mushrooms, held together with a handful of bran.
Outside kitchen windows, it held onto the title of the Breadbasket of Europe. The fields were still golden, the harvest still bountiful, the farmers sweating for grain that would never reach their table.
Ukrainians call it "holodeuka." History books now remember it as the Ukrainian famine-genocide of 1932-33: a Soviet-manufactured famine aimed to squash resistance in defiant eastern Ukraine, while boosting grain exports at the same time.
For decades, the story of the millions who starved to death beside fertile fields has been buried in unmarked mass graves, cloaked by government secrecy and repressed by those who witnessed the horror as children.
Now, 70 years later and half a world away, the kids are speaking up, eager to make sure the story doesn't die with them and permanently pass into myth and rumour.
Lidia Prokomenko's grandmother didn't have any beef to give the tax collectors. They took her last three chickens instead.
Days later, Prokomenko's state-appointed teacher was singing her usual communist ideology, with particular praise for the collectivization of farming, which had only recently been implemented in the area.
She went on about how by giving up ownership of your land and collecting the harvest as a community, you made sure that everyone in the country had something to eat and that everyone prospered together.
Eight-year-old Lidia asked about the chickens and what her family got out of her grandmother being hungry. The teacher pointed to the scarf the little girl was wearing in the unheated schoolhouse.
" 'That's your clothes and the people who work in the factory making those, they have to eat,' " she told Prokomenko, now 79, who lets out a sound somewhere between chuckling and weeping. "That's funny to say that, but I have to cry."
Ukraine was a problem for Soviet Premier Josef Stalin. The richest farming region in the U.S.S.R. was also where most peasants fervently refused to give up their land to collectivization.
At the same time, Stalin was also hoping to increase grain exports in order to purchase heavy machinery from the west. It seems he came up with the same solution for two problems.
Grain quotas for Ukraine were raised 44 per cent in 1932, with no locals to receive grain until the quota was filled. Villagers were also to hand over certain amounts of other food stuffs as well. Survivors say the state collectors left them with practically nothing.
Prokomenko's mother would take items from around the house and walk into town to trade them for food. For a thick bedspread, she would get two cups of cornmeal to feed her family of six.
"I was always babysitting my brother; my mother was off to market to exchange things for food," she said.
"Every day she would go."
So people hid food. Government agents would search homes for stashes of grain, use long rods to probe the yard for buried supplies and take whatever they found.
Those who snitched on their neighbours were rewarded with bread. Walter, a survivor who doesn't want his full name published, said a member of the communist party who lived across the street in his village would often drop in if he smelled something cooking.
Walter remembers one such inspection when he was cooking nettles in a dry pan. "I said, 'Here, you want to try?' and he didn't want to try," the 79-year-old St. Catharines man laughed.
So they ate what they could find.
Those caught gleaning the fields for leftover wheat were either shot or imprisoned. Still, Walter would sneak into the fields and clip off milky buds with scissors.
The nine-year-old would also visit a nearby sugar beet plantation and brave a "watchman on a horse with a good whip" to snatch the pans of molasses left as insect traps. The sweetened nettle bread was a "delicacy."
Anna Onyskiw's grandmother would wake her up early each morning to go pick grass, marsh reeds and budding leaves to make into soup. Other days the eight-year-old would scour the woods for acorns and wild berries.
"You try everything to fill up your stomach," she said. "In our village, you find no dog, no cat, no bird. What is moving is gone."
Her sister didn't speak for months from the hunger. At night, by a flame too small for the snitches-- as religion was forbidden by the communists-- to see, they'd listen to their grandfather read from the Bible.
Her prayers were answered by an unusually large wild mushroom harvest.
"In the fall, we were so happy because of the mushrooms. We'd boil them, we fried them, we put them in the oven to dry them," Onyskiw said, adding that she hasn't eaten mushrooms since.
"We were so happy to have this given to us, I'd just say, 'Oh thank you God, thank you God. You didn't forget about us.' "
But there still was never enough to eat.
As autumn turned to winter, the bodies started piling up. Burying the neighbours became a regular chore. Stomachs swelled round and grotesque, a disfigurement that stayed with some survivors for life.
Someone from the village would come around with a cart, collecting the corpses. Walter remembers his mother helping out once so she could borrow the cart the next day.
The children saw the bodies tumble from hay forks into communal graves, layered with lime to keep in the pungent smell. Sometimes those that were nearly dead would get tossed in as well.
Onyskiw's grandfather was very sick and bloated, but when the "death collectors" came to the door, she and her sister would sit on top of him, playing with dolls and poking him to keep quiet until the cart moved on.
She soon also fell ill, lying long hours in bed, her hunger giving birth to hallucinations.
"I could smell bread, and I say, 'Momma, are you eating bread? Look! You still have some of it in your hair.' And I'd eat just the little bits," she said, pretending to nibble on crumbs. " 'Momma, why you crying? You still have lots, you still have lots for you, too.' "
Her misery grew to the point that one wintery night, she quietly walked downstairs and out the door into the cold.
"I go outside and I start hiding myself in the snow, because I don't want to live no more. I want to die," she said. Her grandfather knew better and soon carried her inside.
The death count mounted in spring 1933 -- some estimates have 25,000 dying daily -- and whispers of cannibalism circulated around the countryside, stories of desperate parents and meals cut from corpses.
Many families picked up and moved to other parts of the country. But state agents were equipped with a list of family names from the starving areas and turned away hundreds of hungry migrants.
Natalie Awarmenko was just three at the time, but her parents have told her how they fled their ancestral home for the Dombas region, where the need for coal miners was so great the list was ignored.
After their home was demolished and land seized, Onyskiw's father also moved the family to go work in the mines for 200 grams of bread a day.
Walter and his mother toughed it out in their village, surviving on the jars of beets and peas she had stashed in the rafters. His father worked in a factory in a nearby city and would occasionally come home with money and food, and on one joyous day two loaves of bread.
"What a happiness! To have bread!" he remembered. "For two weeks I kept (a large piece) under my pillow, until it had mildew. My mother told me it was better (to keep it) longer. I'd eat it all at once if I can."
Prokomenko's father took the family to present-day Belarus, where he worked in a lumber camp, and didn't return until 1935, when the worst of this "hungry time" passed.
In 1938, the government sent out word that all those who had fled or had their farms seized were welcome to return. Wanting his children to reconnect with their heritage, Awarmenko's father took the family back.
His name was taken down as they re-entered the village.
That first night, she said through a translator, they heard screaming as a black van crept through the dark streets, taking the men from each newly returned family. The Ukrainians called this van the "chornee voron" or "black crow."
Awarmenko's father managed to escape that night and made his way back to Dombas, where the rest of the family joined him six months later.
Gradually, people stopped dying. But Prokomenko doesn't remember her stomach being really full until she immigrated to Canada in 1951. "There was not really lots, but enough for living," she said.
For decades, speaking of the famine was prohibited, dismissed as "counter-revolutionist propaganda." The closest the Soviets came to acknowledging the genocide was to admit they had experienced a "production difficulty" during those years.
Even as recent as 1983, when future prime minister Brian Mulroney mentioned the famine in a speech to an international Ukrainian organization, the Soviet Union condemned it as a "100 per cent lie."
Silence became ingrained in the survivors, even those who came to Canada in the 1940s and 1950s, only airing these dark memories in the company of family and friends.
Instead of uniting through adversity, the famine's legacy divided the Ukrainian Canadian community, splitting survivors from those hailing from Polish-controlled western Ukraine and the younger generation, unable to relate to this "national" tragedy.
"I remember and remind everyone, my grandchildren, my children, but their understanding is different," Walter said. "You have to be there."
But now the stories are being told. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress has been actively marking the 70th anniversary, having the famine officially recognized by the Senate last month.
They are also fighting to have the 1932 Pulitzer Prize awarded to New York Times reporter Walter Duranty revoked, as his series on the Soviet Union failed to report the full extent of the famine.
The St. Catharines chapter has located 40 survivors living in the area and is now hoping to book them for speaking engagements and seminars to educate Ukrainians and the broader community.
Many of them spoke last month at the blessing of a memorial cross erected at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of St. George on Facer Street in St. Catharines. (A similar ceremony will be held Sunday at St. Cyril and Methodius Ukrainian Catholic Church.)
Walter wore a plain white sign around his neck reading 548 + 12, signifying the 548 who died and the 12 who disappeared from his village during the genocide. In every snapshot from that day, at the ceremony or the luncheon afterward, Walter is holding the sign directly at the camera.
"I want to have picture so I can send it to (Ukraine) and show them we never forget," he said. "I never forget them. I never forget that holocaust."
Here’s my letter, “Shaw became a dupe of Stalin”, (St. Catharines Standard, Aug.8, 2003):
“Regarding “We never forget”, the story of the 1932-33 Soviet-orchestrated famine-genocide, (The Standard, Aug. 2):
The Soviet propaganda effort to deny this famine even utilized sympathizers like George Bernard Shaw as tools praising Stalin.
The socialist playwright, (ironically revered here in Niagara mostly as a shill for tourist dollars) toured the Soviet Union and declared there were no forced starvations in Soviet Ukraine.
It is notable that Shaw, the iconic high moralist claiming to represent the common man, could not or would not reconcile his supposed great utopian ideals to the horrific reality of the communist lie.
I thank The Standard and writer Erik White for documenting this dormant piece of oral Ukrainian history. R. Bobak”
This is from Arnold Beichman, research fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif., (National Post, Aug.13, 2003):
“Re: Giving A Great Gadfly His Due, Ian Hunter, Aug. 11.
It is an astonishing omission from Prof. Hunter's column that in his journalism, Malcolm Muggeridge was one of the most effective opponents of the Soviet Union at a time when bien-pensants in the West, particularly in England, were full of admiration for Joseph Stalin's genocidal policies.
While contemporary Moscow correspondents like Walter Duranty were filing lies in the guise of news to The New York Times, Muggeridge was telling the truth to readers of the Manchester Guardian. Let me give you a taste of Muggeridge at his polemical best, this passage from his autobiography, Chronicles of Wasted Time: "Wise old Shaw, high-minded old [Henri] Barbusse, the venerable [Sidney and Beatrice] Webbs, [Andre] Gide, the pure in heart and Picasso the impure, down to poor little teachers, crazed clergymen and millionaires, drivelling dons and very special correspondents like Duranty, all resolved, come what might, to believe anything, however preposterous, to overlook anything, however villainous, to approve anything, however obscurantist and brutally authoritarian, in order to be able to preserve intact the confident expectation that one of the most thorough-going, ruthless and bloody tyrannies ever to exist on Earth could be relied on to champion human freedom, the brotherhood of man, and all the other good liberal causes to which they had dedicated their lives."
Here’s an article by Amity Shlaes, “Why Soviet history is back in vogue” (Financial Times, Aug. 25, 2003):
“The US is devoting 2003 to the frustrating task of identifying and hunting down its new enemies. But it is also, as it happens, busy pursuing an old enemy. Or, rather, the ghost of an old enemy: the Soviet Union. A full decade after the cold war's end, Americans are taking another look at Soviet communism. They are trying to determine how so many of America's most influential public figures, from the 1920s onwards, failed to appreciate the threat that the Soviet regime represented both to outsiders and to its own citizens.
The newsiest aspect of the story has been Columbia University's decision to consider revoking the Pulitzer Prize it granted three-quarters of a century ago to Walter Duranty of The New York Times. Mr Duranty, a Harrow-educated Englishman, won the prize for 1932 articles that argued Stalin was "doing the best for the Soviet masses". The same articles neglected both the facts of the deportation of hundreds of thousands and the beginnings of the Ukrainian famine, in which millions perished. The Great Depression was on and many New York Times editors saw the Soviet Union as an intriguing economic model. The Pulitzer committee duly canonised Duranty, concluding his work was "marked by scholarship, profundity, impartiality"*. Their award was a gift to Duranty - but an even greater one to Stalin.
Scholars have long remarked on the folly of the Duranty award - indeed, this is the second time a Pulitzer committee has revisited the matter. This year's review probably has something to do with another timely revision: that of the view that The New York Times is unassailable. Walter Duranty, after all, was an early version of Jayson Blair, the Times's 2003 plagiarist; where Mr Blair is farce, Duranty was tragedy. Still, the Pulitzer review also reflects a conviction that misconceived myths about the Soviet Union must be toppled like old communist statues.
A crucial part of this re-evaluation is a general look at Soviet abuses. Perhaps the most important work is the exhaustive Gulag by Anne Applebaum, the US journalist.** Ms Applebaum argues that the camp, the Soviet institution of terror, was in its way as bad as anything perpetrated by the Nazis. "In Auschwitz you could die in a gas chamber, at Kolyma you could freeze to death in the snow," she writes.
Less scholarly, but just as important, is a bestseller by Mona Charen.*** Ms Charen, a columnist, reviews the ranks of left-leaners who, over eight decades, whitewashed communist misdeeds. Her list starts with George Bernard Shaw, who praised the Soviet Union as a place that made "the world safe for honest men", and goes all the way to TV interviewer Barbara Walters, who in the 1990s decried the chaos following communism's break-up and reminisced: "In the old Soviet Union, you never saw faces like this - the poor, the homeless . . . is this what democracy does?"
There are a number of reasons for the new interest in the old Soviet Union. The first is the availability of information. Robert Conquest, pre-eminent cold war scholar of Stalin's abuses, had to back up data with surmise. Ms Applebaum and other post-Soviet scholars have the luxury of extensive fieldwork.
A second reason is the disturbing absence of Russian scholarship. President Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB operative in East Germany, has insisted that it is better to ignore history, calling it a "mistake to get bogged down in old problems from the past". Since Russians are not doing the work, westerners are doing it for them.
But the most important factor is a growing realisation that the US and Britain made errors about the Soviet Union, or its satellites and friends, because they thought about the cold war in terms of themselves and their government, rather than recognising the Kremlin as what Hannah Arendt, the political philosopher, identified early on as an "objective enemy". Rather than take Stalin for what he was, US citizens in the 1930s tended to view his collectivisation as a conceivable alternative to bread lines at home. In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, such self-referential thinking emerged again. Susan Sontag, the intellectual, saw Vietnam not as a cold war conflict but as the "key to a systematic criticism of America".
Today Americans fear that such superficially plausible yet flawed reasoning may again lead to foreign policy misjudgments of comparable magnitude. A year ago, it was possible to argue that Afghanistan and perhaps the mooted campaign against Iraq were finite "little wars".
Now people are wondering whether Afghanistan was merely the first skirmish in a protracted conflict, as the Berlin division was in the cold war. Americans are wondering whether the west is facing a conflict with radical Islam and certain Middle Eastern regimes that is every bit as defined and profound as the struggle with the Soviet Union was in its day. They wonder, too, which side of such a conflict Europe might be on. They know they have to think seriously about friends and enemies.
Retrospective Sovietology may seem an odd way to think about al-Qaeda. But it represents an honest acknowledgment of how hard it is to get things right.
* S.J. Taylor, Stalin's Apologist, Oxford, 1990
** Gulag: A History, Doubleday, 2003
*** Useful Idiots: How Liberals Got it Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First, Regnery, 2003”
Here’s Mark MacKinnon’s article, “Ukraine's Holocaust slowly acknowledged”, (Globe and Mail, Sept.22, 2003):
“Olga Skoba's memories of the great famine in her village are dominated by a single image.
When she was a girl, about 12 years old, she watched men pile the emaciated corpses of those who had died onto a wooden cart each day to take them to the cemetery. The cart was so full, she remembers, that the bodies could not fit on it properly. One morning, the head of one of her neighbours dragged behind the cart, bouncing off stones as a final indignity on the way to the grave.
Ms. Skoba, like anyone old enough to remember the famine of 1932-33 in Ukraine, which left an estimated seven million to 10 million people dead, has many terrible memories. By her estimate, half of this tiny farming community was wiped out. She says she survived only because her mother hid bread under her head scarf to keep the Soviet secret police from seizing it.
Seventy years later, she still doesn't know why it happened.
"There were rumours that Comrade Stalin took the grain and dumped it into the sea," the 82-year-old said, furrowing her wizened brow. "But other people say it was just a bad harvest that year."
For decades after Soviet dictator Josef Stalin committed one of his greatest crimes, deliberately inflicting mass starvation on the Ukrainian peasantry, he and his regime got away with the big lie.
Denying the famine ever happened was for decades the unbending Soviet line. In many ways, the game has only just ended.
Thousands of documents declassified by the Ukrainian government this year support what many historians have been saying for years: that the starvation was orchestrated by Stalin in order to crush a peasantry that had vehemently opposed his plans to collectivize all agricultural production.
Memorial, a Kiev-based human-rights group that has put together an exhibition on the famine, says the harvest in 1933 was actually quite a good one, but that the grain was forcibly taken and sold to Depression-stricken United States and Germany in exchange for equipment that helped modernize Soviet industry. Those who didn't hand over all their crops voluntarily had their food stocks seized. Resisters were executed.
This spring, Ukraine's parliament, the Rada, belatedly passed a motion declaring the famine to have been an intentional crime against the Ukrainian people. "The famine of 1932-33, which was an inhuman way to eliminate millions of Ukrainians, was a genocide perpetrated by the regime of the time," the resolution reads. "This tragedy has been kept silent for decades."
The government took its case to the United Nations, and asked the world body to formally recognize the genocide of 1932 and 1933. No one would second the motion -- there were rumours of Russian opposition -- so now a second motion is being drafted using the somewhat milder term "crime against humanity."
While the diplomatic game plays out in New York, many Ukrainians are wondering why it took the government so long to open this chapter in its history, and why there is still no museum to the genocide anywhere in Ukraine. Twelve years after Ukraine gained independence, a small monument inscribed "1932-1933" in downtown Kiev is the only public acknowledgment in the country of what took place.
"For 70 years, people couldn't talk about this, and today we still don't," said Artur Yeremenko, a senior researcher with Memorial, which terms the famine "Ukraine's Holocaust."
"The U.S. Congress has put together a 33-volume report on what happened. The Ukrainian government hasn't written one volume."
Ostap Skrypnyk, executive director of the Winnipeg-based Ukrainian Canadian Congress, said the delay is a symptom of a wider lack of historical understanding among many Ukrainians. Politicians, including President Leonid Kuchma, have been loath to go too far in condemning the Soviet era, since much of the electorate still looks on that time with a certain fondness.
Taking the step of calling the famine a genocide necessarily raises the question of who should take the blame for what happened. Stalin and most of his cronies are dead, and the institutions that outlive them are running for cover.
The Ukrainian Communist Party, which continues to deny Stalin and his regime played any role in the famine, boycotted the Rada debate on declaring it genocide, insisting the famine was caused exclusively by drought. Russia, which assumed many of the debts and assets of the Soviet Union when it collapsed, quickly made clear that it didn't see any reason it should be held responsible, despite calls from groups such as Memorial.
It's the cruelty that survivors say they can never forget. Ivan Leschenko says his tiny village of Kirilo-Anovka, in eastern Ukraine, was hit so hard that it is deserted even now, 70 years later. Everyone who lived there either died or went to the nearby city of Poltava to beg for food.
A journalist during the Soviet time, Mr. Leschenko, 80, knew better than most that the forced famine was a topic never to be discussed, let alone written about. He's dismayed at how long it has taken an independent Ukraine to begin dealing with its history.
"The old powers from the Soviet time control Ukraine still. They supported the ideology that committed this famine. They will be judged some day." "
Lubomyr Luciuk wrote in “Why honour a shill for Stalin?”, (National Post, Oct.24, 2003):
“Re: Revoke Duranty's Pulitzer, editorial, Oct. 23.
Canadians should take pride in learning that the international campaign to have Walter Duranty's Pulitzer Prize revoked or returned originated in this country, with the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Our goal was never to erase Duranty's record or the man himself from history. Quite to the contrary, we want Duranty known for all time for what he truly was: a shill for Stalin, before, during and after the genocidal Great Famine of 1932- 1933 in Soviet Ukraine.
Of course, we have no way of predicting whether the Pulitzer committee will do the right thing and revoke or return his prize. We hope so, otherwise future Pulitzer recipients will have to accept this distinction knowing their company is polluted by the spectre of a man who buried the truth about the mass murder of millions of people.
Lubomyr Luciuk, Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Toronto.”
Robert Fulford wrote in “Duranty was Stalin's spin doctor” (National Post, Nov.25, 2003):
“Walter Duranty, famous 70 years ago as a distinguished reporter for The New York Times, has slowly turned into a symbol of the wilfully deceptive reporting on the Soviet Union that misled the West about the nature of Stalinism for many years. This week Duranty appeared in the news again when the Pulitzer Prize board announced its decision not to strip him posthumously of the award he won in 1932 for persistently dishonest reporting from Moscow.
Duranty served as Moscow correspondent from 1921 to 1934, wrote several books on Soviet politics and won an admiring public in America.
Meanwhile, he and the Soviets developed a mutually beneficial arrangement.
They let him live like a commissar in a big apartment stocked with caviar and vodka. He had assistants, a chauffeur, and a cook- mistress who became the mother of his son. In return he followed the Soviet line. Sometimes he criticized the Bolsheviks, but on crucial issues he echoed their opinions and praised their plans.
Duranty depicted Stalinist dictatorship as a version of what Russians considered proper government: "Absolute authority, unmellowed by the democracy or liberalism of the West." He accepted outright the new Soviet spin of the early 1930s: No longer interested in exporting revolution, they desired nothing but co- operation and trade with the West.
By selling this approach to Times readers, Duranty helped win public approval for the American decision to recognize Stalin's government. When recognition was granted in 1934, a banquet was held at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York to celebrate. Duranty, introduced as "one of the great foreign correspondents of modern times," was given a standing ovation.
Elsewhere, his mendacity was noticed. Malcolm Muggeridge, reporting from Moscow for the Manchester Guardian, considered him the worst liar he ever encountered in journalism. But Duranty's most passionate critics have been Ukrainians, for excellent reasons. When Ukrainian farmers resisted collectivization, Soviet soldiers seized their crops at gunpoint, leaving the people to starve while the government sold the grain abroad for hard-currency credits. As a result, at least five million and possibly even 10 million Ukrainians died.
This man-made famine, at that time the greatest act of genocide in history, was reported by newspapers in several Western countries, including the United States. But even at its peak in 1933, Duranty denied that it existed: "There is no famine or actual starvation, nor is there likely to be."
"RUSSIANS HUNGRY, BUT NOT STARVING" said the heading on his March 31, 1933, report. Later, when Stalin sent old colleagues to prison or death on false charges of treason, Duranty reported that justice was being served. "Stalin is not an arrogant man," he wrote. In fact, he was "remarkably long-suffering in his treatment of various oppositions."
The evidence against Duranty piled up over the years, often in memoirs like Muggeridge's and in Robert Conquest's books on Soviet terror.
In 1990, Sally J. Taylor wrote in Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty, the New York Times's Man in Moscow (Oxford University Press) that he knew the truth all along and admitted to British diplomats that possibly 10 million had died. The New York Times editors, never eager to admit such a stain on their paper's honour, finally assigned Karl Meyer to review Duranty's work.
He called it "some of the worst reporting to appear in this newspaper."
Ukrainians now mark the history of the famine as Jews mark the Holocaust; this year their day of remembrance fell on Saturday, the same day as the Pulitzer announcement. Led by the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association in Toronto, they have been petitioning the Pulitzer board to cancel Duranty's award. Mark von Hagen, a Columbia University historian hired by the Times to judge the prize- winning articles, reported that they were a "largely uncritical recitation of Soviet sources." He argued for withdrawing the prize but the publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, disagreed. Sulzberger said it would resemble the Stalinist practice of airbrushing purged figures from official photographs. All to the contrary:
It would acknowledge a dreadful mistake. But the Pulitzer board saw it Sulzberger's way. Ukrainian groups, unsatisfied, have vowed to continue their campaign.
Underlying the Pulitzer committee's decision we can detect lingering traces of respect for communist dictatorship as a noble endeavour that turned barbarous because its leadership fell into the wrong hands.
There's still a belief abroad that communism contained an ethical core, the search for social justice, and therefore its supporters need never apologize. It's doubtful that we would extend this generosity to anyone who once embraced fascism. Had Duranty knowingly published something similar about the Nazis, such as a false denial that death camps existed, his Pulitzer would have been retracted decades ago, perhaps even before his death in 1957.
In our standard agreed-upon history of the 20th century, communism still stands morally above fascism, even though communism lasted much longer and killed many more. Meanwhile, in the place on the 11th floor of the Times that displays the framed citations of its 89 Pulitzer Prizes, there's a notice appended to Duranty's citation: "Other writers in The Times and elsewhere have discredited this coverage." "
Here’s a letter from Orysia Tracz, “Pulitzer shame”, (National Post, Nov.27, 2003):
"Re: Duranty Was Stalin's Spin Doctor, Nov. 25.
"Russians hungry but not starving," said the headline to Walter Duranty's article in 1933. It was not the Russians, it was the Ukrainians. For most of the world, and for some even now, Russia equalled the U.S.S.R., and behaved accordingly, when convenient. But even though it was all the Soviet Union, the republics were still separate -- at least in famine and persecution. Border guards shot at people crawling across the frozen Zbruch River into western Ukraine (ruled by Poland at that time). People in Russia did not believe those that got through the border were looking for bread.
My thanks to Robert Fulford for this column. As for the Pulitzer board members and The New York Times, may their consciences always remind them of their decision not to revoke Duranty's Pulitzer Prize.”
Here’s a letter from Henry Srebrnik, (National Post, Jan.26, 2004):
“Re: Who Is a Holocaust Survivor?, Jan. 24.
Leo Rechter, executive director of the National Association of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors, states that he adheres to a strict definition of a Holocaust survivor: Someone who was actually interned in a slave labour or death camp by the Nazis.
Yet even with such a watertight definition, there is room for ambiguity. Both of my parents, born and raised in Czestochowa, Poland, were incarcerated, first in the Jewish ghetto and then, in late 1943, in the HASAG concentration camp in that city. They remained there until its liberation by Soviet troops on Jan. 16-17, 1945. No other member of their respective families in Poland survived the war.
I was born in Czestochowa on July 19, 1945, some six months after their liberation. This, of course, means that I was conceived and was carried as a fetus in my mother's womb for some three months while she was an emaciated slave labourer for the Nazi regime. I am without question the child of Holocaust survivors, but am I myself a Holocaust survivor?
Henry Srebrnik, professor, Department of Political Studies, University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown.”