Holodomor in Kharkiv through the lens of Austrian engineer: photo gallery

Mother sitting on a sidewalk in Kharkiv, feeds her starving children. Handwritten caption on photo: “Mother with her starving children”. Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.  

2021/01/10 – 01:36 • HISTORY

Source: Holodomor Research and Education Consortium

During the 1921-23 famine in the USSR, Soviet authorities had allowed photographers unprecedented and never to be repeated freedom to document starvation and human misery on Soviet soil. Over the ensuing decade, the authorities decided that in order to maintain control and achieve their goals, they needed to carefully manage the image of the USSR, both for local consumption and the outside world.

A network of agencies was created to manufacture a virtual Soviet reality which in the 1930s included the concealment and blanket denial of the Holodomor. Censorship and a variety of restrictions made the discovery, documentation and reporting of the facts very challenging, particularly for photographers, as we learn from written accounts and other records.The photographs in this photo gallery are from 1933. The album itself, however, is undated and is in the private collection of Samara Pearce, great-granddaughter of Austrian engineer Alexander Wienerberger, who had worked in the then-capital of Ukraine, Kharkiv in 1933.

Alexander Wienerberger’s photos from his time in Kharkiv (1933) were used to illustrate several pamphlets, newspaper articles, and books in the period 1934-1939. To date, the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium has identified nine such publications. We present here all of these known published and unpublished Wienerberger photographs depicting Holodomor-related conditions in Ukraine during 1933 that did not appear in the “Innitzer album” (which has been published as a separate gallery on our site, – Ed.).

Most of the photos in this collection were compiled in the album titled The Workers’ Paradise. U.S.S.R.” Presumably, the album was assembled by Wienerberger himself, It is also known as the Red Album because of its red binding.

As in the case of the “Innitzer Album” photos, many were specific to a district of Kharkiv known as “Холодна Гора” (“Cold Mountain” or “Kalten Berg” in German), where the factory that he managed was located.

The Red Album is in the possession of Samara Pearce, great-granddaughter of Alexander Wienerberger. It is thanks to her devoted study of his life and care for his work that these photographs have survived and can continue to shed light on the devastating consequences of the Holodomor and Stalin’s policies more generally.

Inside front cover of Das Arbeiterparadies. Ud.S.S.R. or Red Album. Alexander Wienerberger’s description reads, “Proletarians of all countries unite! … (in the mass grave).”

An empty, broken-down farmhouse in Ukraine. Caption: “Abandoned farmhouse in Ukraine, whose inhabitants had died of starvation in 1933.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv area, 1933.

Crowd of people waiting to enter a store selling rationed food in Kharkiv. Caption: “The empty food distribution centers – in this case, Khatorh (Kharkiv trade cooperative) – are besieged by the needy population.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Kharkiv residents waiting in line outside a milk rations store. Caption: “Line in front of a milk distribution center.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

A seemingly endless line of people along a main street in Kharkiv waits to get their ration of bread. Handwritten caption on photo: “Waiting in line for black bread.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

A young woman and a little girl sit at the edge of an outdoors stair landing while another woman walks up the stairs in Kharkiv. Caption: “Homeless and starving…in the year 1933.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Large crowd of people waiting outside a Khatorh for black bread. Caption: “[Waiting in line for black bread.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Woman with a handful of small fish at an open-air marketplace in Kharkiv. Handwritten caption on photo: “Black-marketeering in Russia”; additional handwritten caption on album page under photo: “4 little dried fish (Wobla) are her only merchandise. Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Several people at an open air food market in Kharkiv selling milk. Caption: “At the food market in Kharkiv: each tightly clutched bottle of milk is a valuable possession in free trade.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Two destitute children sit near a sleeping woman by a grassy embankment in Kharkiv. Caption: “Starving and neglected children, the so-called [in Russian] bezprizornye.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Impoverished woman from the countryside seated by a fence in Kharkiv. Caption: “Associated with hunger and carriers of epidemics – lice infestation.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Many people milling about on a broad city street or square in Kharkiv, with a man leaning on crutches and two women in the foreground. Handwritten caption in album: “and their victims.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Street scene in Kharkiv with a woman and a man on crutches in the foreground and a crowd of people in the background. Caption: “Victim of the tramway: A man whose feet had been run over.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

A woman on crutches and a young girl walk down a residential street in Kharkiv. Handwritten caption in album: “and their victims.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

A man with an amputated foot stands watching a line of people waiting in one of Kharkiv’s marketplaces. Caption: “And their victims.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Two men walk by a store in Kharkiv with liquor bottles displayed in the window. Caption: “Empty grocery store. Only liquor bottles are on display.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

A large crowd of people press in together as they wait to get entry into what is most likely a store for getting food allotted on one’s ration card. Caption: “Bread lines at the Kharkiv Market 1933. The gable of the closed shop – like a mockery – depicts lush fruits, such as were once available for purchase here.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Street view of a “Torgsin” store (abbreviated “торговля с иностранцами” – “trade with foreigners,” it was a network of “special” stores not available for Soviet citizens, – Ed.) in Kharkiv, with a car parked in front. Handwritten caption on page: “Shop for foreigners; daring to park our BMW in front.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Two women about to enter an unidentified establishment in Kharkiv. Caption: “The windows of the empty food centers are adorned only with pictures of Stalin and other Muscovite rulers.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

A woman sits on the doorstep of an unidentified establishment in Kharkiv. Caption: “In vain – the doors are locked!” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Crowded streetcar at the Kholodna Hora Station in Kharkiv. Caption: “The overcrowded streetcars…” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Teen-aged youth begging in Kharkiv. Caption: “Russia’s youth begging for a piece of bread.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Mother sitting on a sidewalk in Kharkiv, feeds her starving children. Handwritten caption on photo: “Mother with her starving children” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

A young boy with a swollen face and a very thin girl, begging in Kharkiv. Caption: “Half-starved children beg at the train station. One can notice the boy’s face swollen from starvation, the girl’s emaciated chest.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Elderly man sits on a bridge in Kharkiv, begging. Handwritten caption on photo: “Alternative retirement plan.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Lean horse in harness in front of a building in Kharkiv; two uniformed police officers walking by. Caption: “The”taxi” buggy horse, on whose hipbones I could comfortably hang my hat.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Crowded electric streetcar in Kharkiv and people waiting to board. Handwritten caption on page: “means of transport…” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Families from the starving countryside rest near a low-lying building on the outskirts of Kharkiv. Caption: “The immigrant farmers are settling down in droves on the streets and square.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

A female factory worker in Kharkiv sits in her temporary shelter. Caption: “And that is how our factory workers lived.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Factory worker’s housing in Kharkiv. Caption: “Residential housing development’ for our factory workers in Kharkiv.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

A worker’s dwelling on the outskirts of Kharkiv. Handwritten caption on photo: “Worker’s house in Kharkiv.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

A male factory worker in his temporary shelter on the outskirts of Kharkiv. Handwritten caption on photo: “Worker’s dwelling in Kharkiv.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

An elderly man sits in front of his hut on the outskirts of Kharkiv. Handwritten caption on photo: “Worker’s dwelling.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

A barefoot young man on crutches walks past a pile of stone rubble on a street in Kharkiv. Handwritten caption in album: “and their victims.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

A man with disabilities is trying to cross a set of train tracks in Kharkiv. Handwritten caption on page: “and their victims.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Victim of starvation lies dead against the side of a building in Kharkiv. Handwritten caption on photo: “Body of starvation victim on the street.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

A famine victim lies dead against a cement barrier in Kharkiv. Handwritten caption on photo: “Body of a famine victim on the street.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

A person lies in a partially excavated area in Kharkiv with old factory buildings in the background. Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Two horse drawn carts transport piles of dead bodies down a Kharkiv street to a burial site. Caption: “An everyday scene: primitive transport of the dead.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Freshly dug mass graves near an older existing cemetery near Kharkiv. Handwritten caption on photo: “Mass graves for the victims of starvation.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

View of Derzhprom, the massive new government complex housing state industry headquarters in Kharkiv. Handwritten caption on photo: “War preparation (Kharkiv).” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Recently constructed housing in Kharkiv for Soviet military officers. Handwritten caption on photo: “Officers barracks in Kharkiv.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Apartment building where Alexander Wienerberger lived for part of his stay in Kharkiv. Caption: “’The apartment had no window panes, no water and no light!’ That is how I lived in Kharkiv..” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

House where Alexander Wienerberger and his family lived for part of his stay in Kharkiv. Handwritten caption on page: “This is where we lived in Kharkiv.” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Abandoned factory in Kharkiv that Alexander Wienerberger was assigned to retrofit. Caption: “The factory on Cold Mountain (Холодна Гора).” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Kharkiv, 1933.

Soviet Health Commissar’s summer residence in Crimea (a resort where Alexander Wienerberger had sent his wife so that she couldn’t see the starving people in Kharkiv, – Ed.). Caption on Red album page: “Crimea, how beautiful you are!” Photo: Alexander Wienergberger, Crimea, 1933.

(c)EUROMAIDANPRESS 2021

One comment

  • And yet Soviet policies and Socialism are gaining popularity today. I guess we deserve it if we ignore history and allow it to repeat itself. How could millions starve to death in the bread basket of Europe? The simple answer is Socialism.

    Liked by 1 person

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