Friday, December 24, 2010

Wasn't the Holodomor a holocaust?

Peter Worthington wrote in Stalin's starvation of Ukraine omitted (Toronto Sun, Dec.22, 2010):
"With Christmas just two days away, this may seem an odd topic for the season of goodwill and joy. Then again, maybe not.

The question begs: How can you have a federally-financed museum of human rights that does not included the Ukrainian Holodomor, the starvation of some seven million Ukrainians in 1932-33 by Stalin?

The answer is you can't, not if it's going to truly be a museum that "increases understanding and awareness about human rights," as it promises.

At this moment, the celebrated Canadian Museum of Human Rights (CMHR) in Winnipeg, the brainchild of the late Izzy Asper and energized by his daughter Gail, has only two permanent galleries: A Holocaust gallery and an Aboriginal Peoples gallery.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) is upset there's little mention of the Ukrainian famine, perhaps the only man-made famine in history, that Stalin implemented to bring Ukraine to heel and to eliminate a huge proportion of Ukrainians who resisted collectivization and communism.

It was genocide of the first order.

It succeeded.

It scarred the conscience of Ukrainians, and every civilized person who was aware of it.

At the time, the New York Times correspondent in the Soviet Union, Walter Duranty, believed Stalin's propaganda and was an apologist for the system. He never identified the famine for what it was, and was rewarded with a Pulitzer Prize, which many have urged be revoked in light of his deceit and abandonment of journalistic integrity.

There are some 1.2 million Ukrainian Canadians, most with distant connections to those who died in the Holodomor. By contrast there are some 325,000 Jews in Canada, many with links to the Nazi Holocaust. In actual numbers, Jews are the 15th largest "ethnic" group in Canada (assuming that term is applicable, which I'm not sure it is), while Ukrainians are the ninth largest ethnic group.

Ukrainians feel their Holodomor should be acknowledged in the CMHR, since the federal government contributed $100 million, to go along with the $115 million raised by private contributions, and $40 million by Manitoba and $20 million from the city of Winnipeg.

If the museum is to be national in character, it's essential the Ukrainian genocide be included, if only to alleviate criticism the initial intention of the museum was to commemorate the Jewish Holocaust.

While every ethnic or national group cannot get equal exposure, Ukrainians have a valid cause as a designated target of Soviet repression.

The internment of Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War was a human rights violation, but it gets almost greater exposure in the National War Museum in Ottawa than the Japanese abuse of Canadians prisoners of war captured at Hong Kong.

Some see that as misguided political correctness.

The first of the "modern" holocausts, or massacres, was of Armenians between 1915-18, when Turks sought to eliminate them. Deported or massacred, the death toll is uncertain but estimates range between 600,000 and 1.5 million.

But Armenia isn't a high priority in Canada, though it gnaws at the conscience of an estimated 50,000 Canadians who are of Armenian origin.

Although the permanent galleries have already been announced, Angela Cassie, spokeswoman for the CMHR, has been quoted saying "the content of the museum is not set in stone," which is an indication common sense will prevail and the Ukrainian Holodomor will somehow be included."

It simply is astounding - here, in Canada, in 2010 - that the Holodomor genocide could still be overlooked and relegated to the status, not of a massive politically-orchestrated human rights horror - but of just some unfortunate old famine.

What must we do - still - to make common sense prevail?

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