Kingston Whig-Standard (Ontario)
December 5, 2009 Saturday
Final Edition

The Great Famine victims remembered


Only seven people came to bury him. He rests beneath a simple stone in
New York's Mount Hebron cemetery, the sole clue to his historical
importance an inscription incised below his name -- "Father Of The
Genocide Convention."

As a graduate student I was obliged to read his book, Axis Rule in
Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposals
for Redress, frankly more door-stopper than page-turner. Nowadays,
with advocates for "humanitarian intervention" shilling the notion of
a "duty to intervene" whenever and wherever necessary to "stop
genocide," Dr. Raphael Lemkin's name and words are better known. After
all he fathered the term "genocide" by combining the root words --
geno (Greek for family or race) and -- cidium (Latin for killing) then
doggedly lobbied the UN's member states until they adopted a
Convention on Genocide, 9 December 1948, his crowning achievement.

Because of the horrors committed by Nazi Germany in the Second World
War what is often forgotten, however, is that Lemkin's thinking about
an international law to punish perpetrators of what he originally
labeled the "Crime of Barbarity" came not in response to the Holocaust
but rather following the 1915 massacres of Armenians, Greeks and
Assyrians within the Ottoman Turkish empire.

Likewise overlooked were Lemkin's views on Communist crimes against
humanity. In a 1953 lecture in New York City, for example, he
described the "destruction of the Ukrainian nation" as the "classic
example of Soviet genocide," adding insight-fully: "the Ukrainian is
not and never has been a Russian. His culture, his temperament, his
language, his religion, are all different... to eliminate (Ukrainian)
nationalism...the Ukrainian peasantry was sacrificed...a famine was
necessary for the Soviet and so they got one to order... if the Soviet
program succeeds completely, if the intelligentsia, the priest, and
the peasant can be eliminated [then] Ukraine will be as dead as if
every Ukrainian were killed, for it will have lost that part of it
which has kept and developed its culture, its beliefs, its common
ideas, which have guided it and given it a soul, which, in short, made
it a nation...This is not simply a case of mass murder. It is a case
of genocide, of the destruction, not of individuals only, but of a
culture and a nation."

Yet Ukraine's declaration that the Great Famine of 1932-1933 (known as
the Holodomor) was genocide has secured very little official
recognition from other states, Canada one of those few. Most have
succumbed to an ongoing Holodomor-denial campaign orchestrated by the
Russian Federation's barkers who insist famine occurred throughout the
U. S. S. R. in the 1930s, did not target Ukrainians and so can't be
called genocide. They ignore key evidence -- the fact that all
foodstuffs were confiscated from Soviet Ukraine even as its borders
were blockaded, preventing relief supplies from getting in, or anyone
from getting out. And how the Kremlin's men denied the existence of
catastrophic famine conditions as Ukrainian grain was exported to the
West. Millions could have been saved but were instead allowed to
starve. Most victims were Ukrainians who perished on Ukrainian lands.
There's no denying that.

A thirst for Siberian oil and gas explains why Germany, France and
Italy have become Moscow's handmaidens, refusing to acknowledge the
Holodomor and blocking Ukraine's membership in the European Union,
kowtowing to Russia's geopolitical claim of having some "right" to
interfere in the affairs of countries in its so-called "near abroad."
More puzzling was a pronouncement this year by Pinhas Avivi, deputy
director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry: "We regard the
Holodomor as a tragedy but in no case do we call it genocide...the
Holocaust is the only genocide to us." Yet if only the Shoah is
genocide what happened to the Armenians, or to the Rwandans, not to
mention to those many millions of Ukrainians?

Last Saturday, Nov. 28, was the date on which the Holodomor's victims
were hallowed. Thousands of postcards bearing Lemkin's image and
citing his words have been mailed to ambassadors worldwide with
governments from Belgium to Botswana, from Brazil to Bhutan, being
asked to acknowledge what was arguably the greatest crime against
humanity to befoul 20th century European history. There is no doubt
that Lemkin knew the famine in Soviet Ukraine was genocidal. If the
world chooses to ignore what he said than what this good man fathered
-- the word "genocide" -- will loose all meaning, forevermore.

Professor Lubomyr Luciuk teaches political geography at the Royal
Military College of Canada and edited Holodomor: Reflections on the
Great Famine of 1932-1933 in Soviet Ukraine (Kashtan Press, 2008).