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The Jewish Experience during World War two and the Ukrainian Famine.

By 1JMA member oi_katacpofa

Debate of this article can be foud here:

The "sacred" nature of the Jewish experience during the Nazi regime is unquestionable. The sufferings, the loss, the tragic nature of the Holocaust, and the special status of the Jews in relation to World War Two's related destruction is assured with little doubt. However the nature of the Holocaust (1) leaves questions on the whole scale uniqueness of the Jewish experience. Can the Holocaust be compared to other mass killings? If so, which ones qualify as similar genocides? What defines Genocide at all? The United Nations defines genocide as:

"In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;


(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group


(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
" (2)

Most definitions revolve around the intent to destroy a large portion or all of a group such as Steven Katz when he defines genocide as "the concept of genocide applies only when there is an actualized intent, however successfully carried out, to physically destroy an entire group" (3) or in Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonassohn's definition that "Genocide is a form of one-sided mass killing in which a state or other authority intends to destroy a group, as that group and membership in it are defined by the perpetrator"(4) . Each definition by each author provides a slightly different answer to a tough question. One could argue that according to Katz's concept the Jewish Holocaust is not genocide due to the lack of proof that the Nazis had any intention to kill the Jews outside of Europe. This obviously leads to problems. The study of these problems of comparison come in a field known as Comparative Genocide Studies, a field sown with political agendas, national pride, minority issues, and a general hostile attitude toward the claim that any one genocide is more perfect (horrible as it sounds) than another. Is the Holocaust Unique? To best answer this one must compare it to other events of a similar scale. In this paper, the Man Made Famine of the Ukrainian people of 1932-1933 will be used to challenge the hegemony of the Holocaust as the epitome of genocide. First, however a closer look at the various perspectives of genocide and the arguments for the Holocaust as being "Phenomenologicaly unique" (5)or did the holocaust "[take] place out of history, and [became] a mysterious event, an upside down miracle, so to speak" (6) or was it just another mass killing in a century marked by mass killings?
What makes the Holocaust stand out? Those who argue that the Genocide of European Jewry is a distinct and incomparable event above and beyond other European Genocides assume one half of the debate. A key aspect of their argument for uniqueness comes from the intentionality of the Holocaust. Steven Katz in a bold move defined the uniqueness of the holocaust by stating:

DEFINITION: "The Holocaust is Phenomenologicaly unique by virtue of the fact that never before has a state set out, as a matter of intentional principal, every man woman and child belonging to a specific people" (7)

However, he soon disclaimers that he is NOT endorsing that the holocaust is "more evil than alternative occurrences of extensive and systematic persecution, organized violence and mass death (8).This is a crucial point that needs to be understood of the Unique genocide followers. They say not that the Holocaust is the worst form of evil ever attempted, but that its distinctly different in character from other horrible events. Katz later says in reference to the Gulag, Cambodia and the Native Americans that "These other happenings are also morally outrageous and arguable as outrageous as the Sho'ah" (9) It is said, "it was never the quality…or unlimited suffering that set aside from other catastrophes, but the meaning of this sufferings…the Intentionality of the Holocaust".(10) It would be fallacious to assume however that the uniqueness supporters preach an entirely unique platform, for even the most outspoken followers like Yehuda Bauer admit, "The Holocaust brought to the world's attention extremes in human behavior-torture, sadism, murder,There was nothing new in these" (11)The base for many unique genocide believers is in the idea that the Jews are a unique people within the context of European History and that although others share great suffering, the Jewish experience was above and beyond what others felt. (12) When faced with the prospect of Comparison Uniqueness Theorist (13) Henry Feingold rebutted that "The Holocaust is an event of magnitude which deserves examination in its own right; its truth is concealed by facile comparisons" (14)and furthermore "The distillation of a lesson is best achieved and derived from the uniqueness of the event rather than from what it shares with other atrocities". (15) Here, he makes a strikingly convincing statement. What weight does an event like the holocaust have if it is considered no more unique than any other event.
With the idea of a unique holocaust in mind, what are the stand out characteristics that make it so profoundly different from the Armenian Genocide, Ukrainian artificial famine, Balkan massacres, and other horrible events of the last century? Intention and methods are often cited as the crucial differences

First, unlike previous horrors, it was:
"systematic," meaning that it was pursued with all the efficiency accessible to a modern technological society. Second, it had no apparent economic motive, indeed was economically counterproductive, and therefore, unlike an abuse such as slavery seems "senseless"…And finally, it meant not merely pain, humiliation and servitude, but death." (16)

Though, this definition of uniqueness is a source of dissent within the Uniqueness Theorist. Katz as an active supporter of the unique holocaust focuses on the phenomenon of the holocaust as opposed to a moral or ethical stance. He argues:
"This is not to deny that non-Holocaust X is different from Holocaust Y but rather to assert that the nature of this difference is logical and structural, not moral." (17)

The crucial fallacy they often cite to strengthen their position while not offending survivors of other genocides is to claim that they are not saying that "Jews in denying the comparability of the Holocaust are advancing a moral claim and diminishing…the misfortunes that befall other peoples" (18)

Instead the Katzian perspective avoids the concept of equating "Uniqueness with morality and again uniqueness with types of degrees of evil" (19)
In essence, the Holocaust was a new form of malicious intent toward a population, but as Katz says it was not "a new or higher level of evil" (20) Other uniqueologists use different approaches to assuring the unique nature of the Holocaust. Some argue that it is in the distortion of the post enlightenment and industrial European society that creates the unique situation for the Holocaust. It served to some as "the juncture where the European Industrial system went awry; instead of enhancing life…it began to consume itself". (21) This version of the Holocaust Uniqueness is based more on the modern methods of the holocaust than quantity. Descriptions of Auschwitz not as "another planet" but as "an extension of the modern factory system" with "raw material", "end products", "chimneys", "railroad grid's" and the role of the perpetrators as "managers" and "engineers (22).Many who agree with Feingolds ideas also concur that the uniqueness of the holocaust rests in the uniqueness of the Jews. Other genocides involved people who were seen to be in the way or backwards or otherwise distasteful groups. The Jews on the other hand were responsible for wonderful things like "the Espèranto Movement, The Psychoanalytic Movement and socialism" (23) and that "…Europe would not be able to think of itself the way it does without the conceptualizations of Mark, Freud, Wittgenstein, von Neumann, and the hundreds of other Jewish intellectuals and thinkers with Jewish Sensibilities." (24) The Holocaust in this perspective took a unique turn not because of the killing of a large number of people within a group, but in that the perversion of modern society allowed itself to consume part of its own population (25) . This is to refer back to Katz "Phenomenologicaly unique" .(26)

To test the accuracy of this position comparison must be made to check the unique traits of the holocaust versus the characteristics of another large genocide and verify the differences.
To verify the Uniqueness of the holocaust, one must seek similar instances of destruction that are similar enough in context and character to be applicable. While the Atlantic slave trade, destruction of native peoples and the Crusades are all events of terrible actions and consequences, all are too far in the past to apply contextually to the holocaust. A better example for comparison would be the Ukrainian Famine of 1932 and 1933. Here, the playing field is more level. Both have totalitarian leaders exercising extreme power over peoples both native and conquered with Stalin and Hitler at the helm. Both are within a reasonable span of time to the other, the Famine occurring just as Hitler was starting to seize control over Germany. Both also involve the repressing of a group of people seen as justifying elimination "…as a nation, …from political maps…from history,…from peoples memory,…from human consciousness". (27)". On a historical level, the two Genocides, Holocausts, terrors, or what have you line up for comparison. Crucially, both projects whether it be the Jewish Question in Prussia or the Ukrainian question in Russia are strikingly similar in the fact that "…neither Nazis nor Bolsheviks regarded genocide as their main aim; it was only one means, among many others, to realize their utopian social projects "(28)With this in mind, the similarities between the two events attacks the uniqueness of both.


Why were the Ukrainians targeted? The broad and over cited answer to nearly any questions of Soviet actions tends to be "class struggle" as a generalization and justification for all actions therein. In general however, "class struggle" can be read to mean the "re-establishment and expansion of the old Russian Empire" .(29) Stalin faced many problems with the Ukraine. They were the most populous minority in the Soviet Union; they possessed vast territories; and most importantly, they were the breadbasket of Russia with ideal agricultural land. (30) . Problems also occurred with the Ukrainian Nationalism that sprung from a nation with a long and proud history, even being able to claim as to of founded Russia in the Kyyivan Rus era. For the Soviet Union to reap the benefits of the Ukrainian lands, they had to have a firm grip upon the population. Khrushchev overheard Stalin gripe, "Ukrainians, unfortunately, are too numerous to be deported to Siberia" . (31)This shows a small difference in that "it was not motivated by a quest for racial purity, and was not an attempt to destroy a nation by means of the physical murder of all its members." (32) This stated by Dr. James E. Mace of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, initially implies a very crucial separation from the holocaust, however he continues that : "For one thing, Stalin had far too any Ukrainians under his sway for him to ever take the idea of physical annihilation seriously. Nor was it necessary for his purpose, which was to destroy a nation as a political factor and social entity" (33)Just like Jews in Western and Central Europe, the Ukrainians have been targeted and attacked for hundreds of years. Starting after 1620, the Ukraine became a nation of "priests and peasants" while the Tsars sought to (34)"cut short the revival of national consciousness" by "…ban[ing] the Ukrainian language from the printed page". A group of people, historically targeted by their masters, facing the destruction of their national identity, these words would fit nicely into any holocaust text.


With an understanding of where the Ukraine was on the Soviet radar, one must move onto the event itself. What happened in the Ukraine that was catastrophic enough to stand next to the Jewish holocaust? During the late 1920's, Stalin, who had just seized control of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, decided to undo the moderately capitalistic New Economic Policy and move into the collectivization of agriculture.Until 1929, most peasants were able to sell their own goods at relatively free markets and were not attacked too frequently for withholding grain from the state. This all changed when "the party began to introduce collectivization on a mass scale and at a rapid pace." (35)This was a crucial change in attitude, as the "peasants were denied all those property rights which had been Guaranteed them by the Decree on land, issued on November 8, 1917 .(36) This action took away what had been a pillar of support for the Bolsheviks who used the Decree on Land to win the support of the peasants in the first place. The Official History of the CPSU(Communist Party of the Soviet Union) described the collectivization as: "During 1930-34, the Bolshevik Party accomplished a historic task, the most difficult (after the establishment of the Soviet Government) of the whole proletarian revolution-the transference of millions of small-propertied peasants' farms to the collective farms and onto the path of socialism" (37) The Soviet union used a polarization of the average peasant versus the exploiting "kulak" to give the impression that the government was aiding the narod(38) while in fact exploiting them further.Specifically, the Famine came about due to amazingly high grain procurements. It was not, as the Soviets claimed, due to drought and poor harvest, considering that "the Ukrainian harvest of 1932 was better than that of the worst NEP year. (39)Instead collectivization began to wreck havoc upon the fragile Ukrainian Economy. In 1930, the Soviet Government required that 7.7 million metric tones of Grain be delivered, this being a third of the 1930's harvest. However in comparison, in 1926 the government only demanded a mere 21 percent. (40) Later in 1931, a slightly off year resulted in a smaller 18.3 million ton harvest, however Stalin and the CPSU maintained that 7.7 million tons must be delivered, and delivered it was. (41) In 1932, 14.4 million tons were harvested, and according to Dr. Mace "should still of been adequate to feed the population and livestock but which would have left few reserves". (42) In the end, 3.7 million tons were eventually procured and the devastation would begin. Here the first horror stories begin to leak out. A report released on July 23 1932 describes the; " "…general food situation in the Ukraine, are beyond description. There the famine is real with all its attributes-the bark of trees and pig weeds eaten as a substitute for bread". (43)Later the same author would report "in 1932-33 the country was literally starving…in the villages of the Ukraine…cannibalism was, if not an extensive, at least widely spread phenomenon". (44) What were the results of this famine, and how do they compare with the holocaust? On a ranking of quantity alone the "Shtuchnyi Holod (45) claims an estimated 5-7 million victims. Dr. Mace claims "Purely in terms of Mortality, it thus was on the same order of magnitude as the Jewish holocaust". (46) The Uniqueness Theorists argue now that while "the object of the entire campaign was the complete annihilation of Ukrainian nationalism" it was not genocide a la the holocaust because it "would have been counterproductive from the perspective of the oppressor seeking to exploit the victim people". (47)Now, its understood that Stalin realized "that only a mass terror throughout the body of the nation-that is the, the peasantry- could reduce the nation to submission". (48)To accomplish his mission of submission, Stalin had to crush the Ukrainian Kulak (symbolic for all peasants) to crush the Ukrainian nationalist sentiment. (49) Statistics are also tossed about to discredit the claims of equality for the two genocides, that;"…though the human carnage was immense, approaching the number of Jewish Victims…the percentage of the Ukrainian peasant population lost was somewhere in the region of 20 percent" (50) Katz then concludes that Stalinist Ideology created "a state that was guilty of mass murder, but not a state that sought or implemented, a policy of physical genocide. Logical argumentation is also wielded in stating that although "the government could of relaxed procurement, eliminated grain exports, and even imported grain…its failure to take these measures does not justify genocide the charge of Genocide" . (51)Why? "…Objective effect is not the same as subjective intent". (52) Famine is seen as "the result of Stalin's effort to totally reconstruct Soviet society through rapid industrialization". (53) Logically speaking, in a nation that is primarily peasant, it makes sense that an absurdly high percentage of the weight was thrust upon the Ukrainian people.

In short, the deaths were a consequence, not the intent of Stalin's policies in the Ukraine. . (54) Perhaps another crucial difference not spoken is in the Success of the psudo-genocide. While the outcome of World War Two is known, and a significant portion of the Jewish population lived, Stalin did manage to collectivize the Ukrainians, increase industrial output, raise GDP, and double the city population. (55) Intention is the key difference cited by uniqueologists, and after careful study of both the holocaust and the Ukrainian famine, one comes to the conclusion that intention makes all the difference. Stalin in essence wanted to rebuild the Russian way of life, and like he is oft quoted "couldn't make an omlate without breaking a few eggs" . (56)Hitler wanted to remake the national identity of Europe, and had to break a few eggs also, but the holocaust seems to be more for the sake of destruction, as opposed to the rebuilding of society. The battles between Uniqueness Theorists and Comparative Theorists is not going to end, battles over definition, quantity, method, context, etc can swing what appears to be an obvious genocide into nothing at all and back again. One could argue that simply mass death implies genocide, and thus history is marked by hundreds of genocides. Or one can make a very specific definition to match their chosen genocide into the only pure genocide. It's a field strewn with political mines, personal offenses, and crosses to bear. Hearing a Jewish group claim that only they relate to suffering genocide, as a Ukrainian is painful. However, being brushed aside as a victim of one in a hundred genocides aids in little. Perhaps the best, albeit naive approach to comparative genocide is to acknowledge that each historical event is unique, but shares similar characteristics.

 

 





Notes:

1)In this paper, Holocaust will be used to reference the specific experience of the European Jewish population.

2)"Social Scientists' Definitions of Genocide", http://www.isg-iags.org/definitions/def_genocide.html

3) ibid

4) ibid

5) Katz, Steven T. "The Uniqueness of the Holocaust: the Historical Dimension" Is the Holocaust Unique. Edited by Alan S. Rosenbaum. Westview press, 1996. p19


6) Young, James E. Writing and Rewriting the Holocaust, Indiana University Press, 1998, p88


7) Katz, Steven T. The Holocaust in Historical Context, Volume 1, The holocaust and mass death before the modern age Oxford University Press, 1994, p28

8) ibid


9) ibid


10) Young, James E. Writing and Rewriting the Holocaust,

11) Bauer, Yehuda. "Holocaust and Genocide: Some Comparisons" Lessons and Legacies. Ed. Peter Hayes. Northwestern U. Press, 1995. 37


12) Feingold, Henry L. "How Unique is the Holocaust?" Genocide: Critical issues of the Holocaust. Ed. Alex Grobman and Daniel Landes. Simon Wiesenthal Center. 1983. p398


13) Term created to describe one who believes in the uniqueness of the Holocaust.


14) Feingold, Henry L. "How Unique is the Holocaust"


15)ibid


16)Katz, Steven T. The Holocaust in Historical Context, Volume 1, The holocaust and mass death before the modern age p32


17) ibid p33


18) ibid p33

19) ibid p33

20) ibid p34

21)Feingold, Henry L. "How Unique is the Holocaust" p399

22)ibid p399 (excerpted from many parts of the same paragraph)

23)ibid p 400

24)ibid p400

25) ibid p401

26) Katz, Steven T. The Holocaust in Historical Context, Volume 1, The holocaust and mass death before the modern age p28

27) Riavchuk, Mykola. "The Elimination of a People" http//:www.ukrweekly.com/archive/1995/049522shtml.

28)ibid

29)ibid

30)ibid

31)ibid

32)Mace, Dr. James E. "The man made famine of 1933 in Soviet Ukraine: what happened and why" http//:www.ukrweekly.com/archive/1995/049522shtml

33)ibid

34)ibid

35)Kostiuk, Hryhory. "Stalinist Rule in the Ukraine: A study of the decade of Mass Terror" (1929-1939) Frederich A. Praeger Press. New York, 1960, p5

36)ibid

37) ibid p 6

38)Wonderful Russian word that is difficult to translate, but is best described as the way a government in power things of the average Joe farmer or peasant


39)Mace, Dr. James E. "The Famine: Stalin imposes a "final solution" http://www.ukrweekly.com/archive/1984/278421.shtml

40)ibid

41)ibid

42)ibid

43)Kostiuk, Hryhory. "Stalinist Rule in the Ukraine: A study of the decade of Mass Terror p 15

44)ibid

45)Ukranian term for the Great Famine of 32-33

46)Mace, Dr. James E. "The man made famine of 1933 in Soviet Ukraine: what happened and why"

47)Katz, Steven K. "Ideology, State power, and mass murder/genocide" Lessons and Legacies. Ed. Peter Hayes. Northwestern U. Press, 1995. 87

48)ibid

49)ibid

50) ibid p 88

51)Green, Barbara B. "Stalinist Terror and the Question of Genocide: the Great Famine" Is the holocaust Unique? t. Ed .Alan S. Rosenbaum. West view Press inc. . 1996 p155

52)ibid

53)ibid p156

54)ibid

55)ibid

56)Absurdly quoted by nearly everyone, I have no idea if its authentic, but it fits.

 

Bibliography:

Bauer, Yehuda. "Holocaust and Genocide: Some Comparisons" Lessons and Legacies. Ed. Peter Hayes. Northwestern U. Press, 1995

Bilotserkivets, Natalia. "a Cruel Lesson". http://www.ukrweekly.com/archive/1995/049522.shtml

Carynnyk, Marco. "Sullivant on politics of collectivization and famine" http://www. Ukrweekly.com/archive/1983/448324.shtml

Feingold, Henry L. "How Unique is the Holocaust?" Genocide: Critical issues of the Holocaust. Ed. Alex Grobman and Daniel Landes. Simon Wiesenthal Center. 1983.

Green, Barbara B. "Stalinist Terror and the Question of Genocide: the Great Famine" Is the holocaust Unique? t. Ed .Alan S. Rosenbaum. West view Press inc. . 1996

Katz, Steven T. "The Uniqueness of the Holocaust: the Historical Dimension" Is the Holocaust Unique. Edited by Alan S. Rosenbaum. Westview press, 1996

Katz, Steven T. The Holocaust in Historical Context, Volume 1, The holocaust and mass death before the modern age Oxford University Press, 1994

Katz, Steven K. "Ideology, State power, and mass murder/genocide" Lessons and Legacies. Ed. Peter Hayes. Northwestern U. Press, 1995.

Kostiuk, Hryhory. "Stalinist Rule in the Ukraine: A study of the decade of Mass Terror" (1929-1939) Frederich A. Praeger Press. New York, 1960,

Mace, Dr. James E. "The Famine: Stalin imposes a "final solution" http://www.ukrweekly.com/archive/1984/278421.shtml

Mace, Dr. James E. "The man made famine of 1933 in Soviet Ukraine: what happened and why" http//:www.ukrweekly.com/archive/1995/049522shtml

Riavchuk, Mykola. "The Elimination of a People" http//:www.ukrweekly.com/archive/1995/049522shtml

Serbyn, Dr. Roman. "the First man-made faimine in Soviet Ukraine 1921-1923" http://www.ukrweekly.com/archive/1988/458814.shtml

"Social Scientists' Definitions of Genocide", http://www.isg-iags.org/definitions/def_genocide.html

Werth, Nicolas. "A state against its people: violence, Repression, and Terror in the Soviet Union" The Black Book of Communism: crimes terror repression Courtois, Werth, Panne, Paczkowski, Bartosek and Margolin. Harvard Press, 1999,

Young, James E. Writing and Rewriting the Holocaust, Indiana University Press, 1998,

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