Germany to recognise Stalin famine in Ukraine as 'genocide'

AFP
AFP - [email protected] • 25 Nov, 2022 Updated Fri 25 Nov 2022 15:38 CEST
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People commemorate the victims of Holodomor in Lviv, Ukraine. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Ukrinform | -

Germany is to declare the 1930s starvation of millions in Ukraine under Joseph Stalin a "genocide", adopting language used by Kyiv, according to a draft text seen by AFP on Friday.

The joint resolution by deputies from Germany's centre-left-led coalition and the opposition conservatives is also intended as a "warning" to Russia as Ukraine faces a potential hunger crisis this winter due to Moscow's invasion.

Lawmakers plan to vote on the resolution next Wednesday following Ukraine's memorial day for the Holodomor, as the famine is known, which falls on the last Saturday in November each year.

The Holodomor belongs on "the list of inhuman crimes by totalitarian systems in which millions of human lives were wiped out" in the first half of the 20th century, the draft text reads, including those committed by Nazi Germany.

"People across Ukraine, not just in grain-producing regions, were impacted by hunger and repression," an orchestrated policy that "meets the historical-political definition from today's perspective for genocide".

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock lent their backing to the parliamentary declaration on Friday via their spokespeople.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called Berlin's move a "milestone" on Twitter. Baerbock later credited Kuleba with prompting Berlin to pass the resolution.

READ ALSO: ‘We just didn’t realise’: What it was like growing up in post-Nazi Dachau

Pope lends backing

The 1932-33 Holodomor -- Ukrainian for "death by starvation" -- is regarded by Kyiv as a deliberate act of genocide by Stalin's regime with the intention of wiping out the peasantry.

Stalin's campaign of forced "collectivisation" seized grain and other foodstuffs and left millions to starve.

The German resolution says that up to 3.5 million people are believed to have died that winter alone but historians put the total death toll as high as 10 million.

The Holodomor has long been a source of hostility between Russia and Ukraine.

Moscow rejects Kyiv's account, placing the events in the broader context of famines that devastated regions of Central Asia and Russia.

However Pope Francis this week also condemned the historical famine as a "genocide" as he expressed sympathy for the "suffering of the dear Ukrainian people" in the face of the current war.

"We pray for the victims of this genocide (in the 1930s) and for so many Ukrainians -- children, women and the elderly, babies -- who today suffer the martyrdom of aggression," he said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile Romanian MPs approved a resolution the same day recognising "the Holodomor as a crime against the Ukrainian people and humanity".

And the Irish senate on Thursday carried a motion to recognise the Holodomor "as a genocide on the Ukrainian people".   

The German text noted that Soviet representatives had disputed the Holodomor before the United Nations General Assembly as late as the early 1980s.

"It would take decades before the Soviet leadership under party leader Mikhail Gorbachev as part of the glasnost policy would admit there had been a 'famine' in Ukraine," it said.

"Archives were opened and reports were published."

READ ALSO: Germany welcomes UN resolution against Holocaust denial

'Message of warning'

The current conflict has fuelled fears that history may repeat itself.

Russia's targeting of grain storage facilities and its blockade of Ukraine's Black Sea exports have sparked accusations that Moscow is again using food as a weapon of war.

Robin Wagener of Germany's Green party, one of the resolution's initiators, said Russian President Vladimir Putin operated "in the cruel and criminal tradition of Stalin".

Holodomor memorial Kyiv

Foreign Minister Annalena Bearbock visits a memorial of the Holodomor in Kyiv on February 7th - just days before the outbreak of war in Ukraine. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd von Jutrczenka

"Once more, the basis for life in Ukraine is meant to be taken away through violence and terror, and the entire country brought to heel," he told the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Wagener said calling the Holodomor a genocide was intended as a "message of warning" to Moscow.

The resolution declares that "few people in Germany and the European Union" are familiar with the facts of the Holodomor and its consequences.

It said that Germany had a "particular responsibility" given its wartime guilt to speak out about the "genocide", a term that was only recognised in international law after World War II.

By Deborah Cole

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AFP 2022/11/25 15:38

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