When the Kharkiv orphanage, filled with starving, moaning orphans, suddenly went silent, caregivers rushed in to find the children eating Petrus, the smallest of them. Some tore off bits of the boy’s flesh and devoured them, while others sucked blood from his wounds.
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It was 1933 in Soviet Ukraine, and the widespread famine was the result of forced collectivization. Even as his people died from hunger, Stalin exported grain, and he regarded the starving peasants as reactionary saboteurs of the socialist economy. Young Ukrainian communists were trained to see them as enemy propagandists, “who risked their lives to spoil our optimism.”
It’s likely that 3.3 million people died of deliberate starvation in the Soviet Ukraine during the years 1932-33. This was but the opening salvo in a period of unprecedented mass violence in Eastern Europe, where Stalin and Hitler between them killed 14 million noncombatants, mainly women, children and the aged, in a mere 12 years.
I spoke with Timothy Snyder, author of “Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin,” on the following topics:
1. Dark Secret
2. Soviet Terror
3. German-Soviet Alliance
4. Operation Barbarossa
5. German Crimes
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(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)