Berlin and the “Ukrainian Holocaust”

Bundestag wants to declare the 1932/33 famine in Ukraine a genocide, adopting politically motivated positions from the milieu of the former Ukrainian Nazi collaboration.

BERLIN/KIEV (Own report) – The German Bundestag wants to declare the 1932/33 famine in Ukraine a genocide and is thus adopting a politically motivated classification from the milieu of the former Ukrainian Nazi collaboration. As research by historians shows, the claim that the famine was a deliberately planned “Ukrainian Holocaust” originated within the Ukrainian exile community in Canada, where former Nazi-collaborators set the tone. In the late 1980s, this claim was subsumed under the newly coined term “Holdomor”. Historians overwhelmingly reject this claim, particularly because the famine affected the populations of agrarian regions throughout the Soviet Union. The Bundestag plans to pass its resolution on the “Holdomor” already on Wednesday. This also threatens to have serious domestic consequences. Last Friday the Bundesrat had approved the recent tightening of §130 of the German penal code, according to which “the public condoning, denying, or grossly trivializing” of war crimes and genocide will be punishable by law.

The Famine

The Bundestag’s initiative is focused on the devastating famine that gripped the Soviet Union in 1932/1933. It had various causes. First a drought in 1931, and then other unfavorable weather conditions had seriously damaged harvests. This happened when the agricultural collectivization, launched in 1929, had triggered tensions, while, at the same time, large amounts of grain were taken by force from the grain-growing regions to supply industrial workers and secure exports, thus provoking serious shortages in those agrarian regions. This was the case in all important grain-growing regions of the Soviet Union – in addition to the major one, Ukraine, also for example in parts of Russia or in Kazakhstan. According to estimates, the famine claimed between six and seven million lives throughout the Soviet Union, approximately 3.5 million in the major grain-growing region Ukraine and another 1.5 million in Kazakhstan, with countless victims in Russia and other regions of the Soviet Union. In relation to the size of the population, Kazakhstan rather than Ukraine had the highest number of casualties during the entire famine. Expert historians may differ on the Soviet government’s responsibility, but only a small, usually far-right minority, assumes that this was due to a deliberately planned genocide.

In the Milieu of Former Nazi Collaborators

In the early 1980s, the famine in Ukraine first became a theme – as well as a means of propaganda – in the larger public domain through the Ukrainian exile community in Canada, where Nazi collaborators were clearly setting the tone. As historian Per Anders Rudling, of the University of Lund had already written years ago,[1] subsequent to the showing of the 1978 “Holocaust” TV-series, the debate on the Shoah became stronger. In this context, Ukrainian Nazi collaborators in Canada, were worried that they could be targeted by the public and the investigating authorities, and went on a counter-offensive by turning the famine of 1932/33 into an alleged deliberate mass murder – a genocide, explains Rudling. The dividing lines between political activism and scholarship became blurred. For example, in the 1980s, a veteran of the Waffen SS-Division Galicia, who was the leader of the local traditional association of Edmonton (Canada), served on the board of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies and was chancellor of the University of Alberta.[2] Initially it was referred to as the “famine holocaust,” or the “Ukrainian holocaust.” By the end of the 1980s the term “Holodomor” was coined.

The Exile’s Historiography

Rudling also describes how the Ukrainian exiles’ historiography became dominant, following the demise of the Soviet Union. Although, unlike exiles of the Baltic countries, the Ukrainian exiles had not been able to land top government positions in Ukraine, notes Rudling, the Ukrainian exile historians were, however, quickly able to supplant the remaining Soviet historiography. Thus, the predominating ideology of the exile community – heavily influenced by the Nazi collaborators – depicting Nazi collaborators of the OUN and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) as heroic “freedom fighters” and the famine of 1932/33 as “genocide” – became Ukrainian historiography. It received official consecration under President Viktor Yushchenko, Rudling writes.[3] Yushchenko – heaved to power with massive western support in the “Orange Revolution” in 2004 – not only posthumously declared OUN-leader Stepan Bandera a “hero of Ukraine” in 2010, but during his time in office, the parliament also officially declared the famine “genocide” (in 2006). This was in contradiction with the vast majority of historians outside Ukraine.

“Recognize as Genocide”

Germany’s Bundestag now also wants to classify the famine as “genocide,” like several other western countries and parliaments have already done – Canada’s government back in 2008, the US Senate in 2018. Most recently Ukrainian politicians began applying pressure. For example, in the German daily Die Welt, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called on the Bundestag to “recognize the Holodomor as genocide.”[4] Ruslan Stefanchuk, President of Ukraine’s Parliament declared that he would “very much wish” for “a Holodomor resolution by the Bundestag.”[5] Now, a draft parliamentary resolution reportedly initiated by Green MP, Robin Wagener, and supported by the SPD, the Greens, the FDP and the CDU/CSU parliamentary groups, due to be passed in the Bundestag on Wednesday, states “from today’s perspective” a “historical-political classification” of the famine “as a genocide is close at hand.” “The German Bundestag shares such a classification.”[6] Thereby the German parliament is explicitly adopting the standpoint of Nazi collaborator-influenced Ukrainian exiles in Canada of the 1980s as their own.


It is revealing that the draft resolution restricts the classification of the famine as genocide as “historical-political.” To this day, Berlin has not been willing to unambiguously acknowledge the genocide carried out on the Herero and Nama of Namibia, because this would entail paying reparations. To avoid having to bluntly deny genocide from now on, Berlin insists on acknowledging it “historically-politically,” but not legally, since before the UN Genocide Convention came into effect on January 12, 1951, genocide as a criminal offense simply did not exist. ( reported.[7]) This legal position would be difficult to maintain, if the Bundestag would classify the famine a genocide without reservations, which is why the caveat “historical-political.”

Berlin Priorities

In addition, the adoption of the diction of former Ukrainian exiles in Canada sheds light on Berlin’s attitude toward a UN Resolution that has been regularly introduced annually at the United Nations, with the special aim of “combating the glorification of Nazism,” and “neo-Nazism.” For years, Germany has voted with abstention, rather than clearly taking a stand against Nazi glorification.[8] This past November 4, Germany explicitly voted against the resolution. The reason: The draft resolution was, as always, tabled by Russia, who was also targeting the glorification of Nazi collaborators, which are still on the agenda, for example in the Baltic states and in Ukraine.[9] Faced with the choice of either condemning Nazi glorification, including the honoring of Nazi collaborators, or snubbing Russia by voting against the resolution, Berlin chose the latter. Today’s power struggle by the West against Moscow takes priority over the commitment to the fight against Nazism.

Attack on Freedom of Speech

Finally, the draft resolution relating to tightening §130 of the German penal code, that was passed last October, could potentially raise far-reaching questions. According to the new amendment, “publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivializing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes are now punishable by law.” This tightening is being sharply criticized as an attack on the rights to freedom of opinion. In the future – based on the Bundestag’s resolution announced for Wednesday – it could also be applied to statements pertaining to the famine of 1932/33 in Ukraine. That would impinge on the majority of historical scholarship outside Ukraine, who see the famine as a horrible tragedy but precisely not as a genocide – even though standpoints on Moscow’s responsibility vary.


[1], [2], [3] Per Anders Rudling: Memories of “Holodomor” and National Socialism in Ukrainian political culture. In: Yves Bizeul (Hg.): Rekonstruktion des Nationalmythos? Frankreich, Deutschland und die Ukraine im Vergleich. Göttingen 2013. S. 227-258

[4] Dmytro Kuleba: Darum sollte der Bundestag den Holodomor als Genozid anerkennen. 21.11.2022.

[5] „Sie warten auf den Sieg und werden zurückkehren“. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 25.11.2022.

[6] Florian Gathmann, Marina Kormbaki, Severin Weiland: Ampel und Union wollen Hungersnot in der Ukraine als Völkermord anerkennen. 25.11.2022.

[7] See also Hush Money Instead of Compensation (II).

[8] See also The Commemoration of the "Defenders".

[9] See also Of Perpetrators, Victims and Collaborators (II) and Von Tätern, Opfern und Kollaborateuren (III).