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Sent: Thursday, April 18, 2002 10:10 AM Subject: Re: Ukrainian Famine This is in reply to Mr. Gerk's email below regarding the harvest in 1932. The pattern is quite consistent that memoirs assert the 1932 harvest was good, even abundant, but archival sources consistently demonstrate that the harvest was extremely poor. This was especially the case in the Volga basin in 1931 and 1932. A severe drought struck the Volga basin [and other regions] in late spring and summer 1931. In 1932, and this is the point of my Carl Beck Paper, a complex of environmental disasters devastated harvests in the Volga basin and many other regions of the USSR. One of the points of my research is that, according to NKZ sources, peasants [like farmers in the US, which I also document] often did not understand some of these infestations, could not detect them, and assumed that the crops were in good condition when they in fact were not. This I think explains many of the assertions in memoirs that the crops were good. The top leadership including Stalin were poorly informed about this situation and were not convinced that these disasters were significant. These leaders believed, like these eyewitness accounts, that the 1932 harvest was good and that the peasants were withholding food from the equally starving ciites, where workers and their dependents were being cut off the rationing system and dying in much greater numbers than normal. If workers and other urban residents were dying of starvation [and this is well documented in archival and even emigre sources], if the rationing system was issuing decreased amounts, if the procurement agencies obtained less grain from the villages after the 1932 harvest than after the 1931 or 1930 harvest, yet confiscated seed and so much else that peasants died in large numbers, in millions, how can anyone avoid the conclusion that the harvest was very small, and not enough to feed everyone in the country? In light of this, I believe we have to approach memoirs and even letters from the period extremely cautiously , and treat them not as absolute truth but as emotional expressions of traumatized people. I write this not to minimize their suffering, but there is a substantial psychological literature on post-traumatic stress syndrome and on the effects of trauma on memory. This literature documents incontrovertibly that people's memories in such circumstances are highly unreliable. I refer interested and even skeptical readers to the writings of Elizabeth Loftus on this point. Her works have been used in numerous court cases related to historical memory, and I believe that they also apply here. Sincerely, Mark B. Tauger Dept. of History West Virginia University >>> email@example.com 04/17/02 05:58PM >>> From: Ted Gerk [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: Tuesday, April 16, 2002 6:32 PM Subject: RE: Ukrainian Famine (2) I can well appreciate that there might be alternative views on the famine of the 1930's. But I am distressed by a quote used here, that is: "These two articles show that the famine resulted directly from a famine harvest, a harvest that was much smaller than officially acknowledged, and that this small harvest was in turn the result of a complex of natural disasters that [with one small exception] no previous scholars have ever discussed or even mentioned. " I am fortunate to have in my possession letters written by my great-grandmother in 1933, from the Volga-German village of Josefstal describing the conditions in her village. She wrote these letters in January of 1933, and since Soviet authorities refused to allow aid and any money to get through, she starved to death in August of 1933. It was only in 1984 that Soviet officials were good enough to allow my grandmother to know when her parents died. I visited in 1994 the Kotovo ZAGS and was able to get a copy of her death certificate and it was listed that she died from a disease of the stomach. An understatement to be sure. At any rate, there are numerous letters from other Volga Germans and Germans in the Ukraine to suggest that the famine of 1933 was anything but natural phenomena. You may have not intended that perception when you wrote your reply, but I think everyone would agree there was famine in other parts of the Soviet Union. It was exasperated by the war on the Kulaks, and the sheer nastiness of the official local response naturally gives rise to the notion that it was a targeted famine. Eye-witness accounts for the Volga suggest that the harvest was plentiful during this time, but was taken away by Soviet officials. If that is not man-made, then what is it? Since my family was not in the habit of promoting "anti-Soviet propaganda", I would suggest that you over simplify the problem. In many areas of Russia, including the Ukraine, Soviet officials took the grain and harvest away from the people. Perhaps this could be called "enforced starvation" rather than man-made famine? At any rate, at the scores of letters from the Volga, and survivors I have talked with, I would suggest that any draught intensified the famine. The people alive at the time all thought there was more than enough to eat, as, after all, they were the ones bringing in the harvest. A further source of information would be: "The Open Wound: The Genocide of German Ethnic Minorities in Russia and the Soviet Union, 1915-1949" by Samuel D. Sinner As well, the Nebraska State Historical Society and the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia have archival collections of organizations set up to provide relief aid to Russia for the famine in the 1920's. They also would have collections of letters featuring first-hand accounts of the famine of the 1930's. The underlying theme in these letters is all the same. Those famine deaths along the Volga were largely man-made - that is, it was enforced starvation. Ted Gerk Canada