Holodomor
Mass grave burial site on the outskirts of Kharkiv with a gravedigger at work
Description
Creator
Wienerberger, Alexander, 1891-1955, Photographer
Media Type
Image
Text
Item Types
Photographs
Photograph albums
Description
An open field on the edge of the city has been transformed into a site for anonymous mass graves. Large numbers of unidentified victims of the raging famine were picked up each day in Kharkiv. In his memoir, Wienerberger states that each mound marks a grave for 15 bodies, and eventually each of 7 new cemeteries erected on the outskirts of Kharkiv included 250 such mounds. (Hart auf Hart, p.182). A gravedigger pauses to look at the photographer. Houses and other buildings can be seen in the background. A similar scene is shown in PD23.

During the spring and summer of 1933, tens of thousands of Ukraine’s residents were dying daily of starvation. In June alone, on average 28,000 persons were dying each day in their village homes, in the fields, along roadsides, and in the cities of Ukraine. (Wolowyna, graph).

In Kharkiv, most of those who were found dead in the streets were people who left their starving families in the rural villages and collective farms in search of food for sale or barter, or to find work.
However by 1933, with the implementation of residency permits (Liber, Total Wars, 154), farm workers were considered illegal aliens in the city. They were not allowed the required food ration cards; work was not available for most of them; and barter – where not actually illegal, was disproportionately unfair to the rural seller. To return home, was a certain death sentence. But without food or shelter, these immigrants from the countryside slowly began to die in ever increasing numbers throughout the city.

Each day city workers were sent out to collect the dead that were found in the streets into wagons and take them to one of many hastily designated plots of land for mass burial. Often the collection and burial also occurred at night, in order to conceal the scale of death in the city. “Between February and June 1933…the OGPU in Kharkiv recorded that it had surreptitiously buried 2,785 corpses.” (Applebaum, Red Famine, 254).


Notes
Photo taken between spring – late summer, 1933.

Photo source: Wienerberger, Alexander. Die Hungertragödie in Südrussland 1933; also known as the Innitzer Album, 1934. p.21.

This is one of 25 photographs depicting life and death in and around Kharkiv during the Holodomor that the photographer put together in a small album with a handwritten title: Die Hungertragödie in Südrussland 1933 [The Tragedy of Famine in South Russia 1933.] He presented the album to the Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodor Innitzer of Vienna in 1934 as an expression of appreciation for the Cardinal’s efforts in trying to organize an international campaign to assist the victims of starvation in 1933. The album is housed in the collections of the Diözesanarchiv, Vienna, Austria.

For essays and a listing of originals and versions published through 1939 with their captions, see Related Features below photo and Home page menus.


Inscriptions
Handwritten caption in album: “Massengräber für die Verhungerten.” [Mass graves for the victims of starvation.]
Date of Original
1933
Date Of Event
1933
Dimensions
Width: 24 cm
Height: 13.8 cm
Image Dimensions
Image Width: 10.8cm
Image Height: 7.9cm
Subject(s)
Local identifier
PD22
Collection
Alexander Wienerberger: Innitzer album
Language of Item
German
Geographic Coverage
  • Kharkiv, Ukraine
    Latitude: 49.98081 Longitude: 36.25272
Copyright Statement
Protected by copyright: Uses other than research or private study require the permission of the rightsholder(s). Responsibility for obtaining permissions and for any use rests exclusively with the user.
Copyright Holder
Samara Pearce https://www.samarapearce.com/
Recommended Citation
Wienerberger, Alexander. Die Hungertragödie in Südrussland 1933: Album Presented by the Photographer to Cardinal Theodor Innitzer of Vienna. Vienna: Diözesanarchiv der Erzdiözese, [1934]. p.21. Retrieved from: http://vitacollections.ca/HREC-holodomorphotodirectory/3636403/data
Location of Original
Diözesanarchiv - Bibliothek, Vienna, Austria. Please contact this archive for official reproductions.
Terms of Use
Rightsholder requests that the name of the photographer, Alexander Wienerberger, accompany each authentic reproduction of his work.
Reproduction Notes
Reproduced with the permission of rightsholder Samara Pearce and the Diözesanarchiv - Bibliothek, Vienna, Austria.
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Mass grave burial site on the outskirts of Kharkiv with a gravedigger at work


An open field on the edge of the city has been transformed into a site for anonymous mass graves. Large numbers of unidentified victims of the raging famine were picked up each day in Kharkiv. In his memoir, Wienerberger states that each mound marks a grave for 15 bodies, and eventually each of 7 new cemeteries erected on the outskirts of Kharkiv included 250 such mounds. (Hart auf Hart, p.182). A gravedigger pauses to look at the photographer. Houses and other buildings can be seen in the background. A similar scene is shown in PD23.

During the spring and summer of 1933, tens of thousands of Ukraine’s residents were dying daily of starvation. In June alone, on average 28,000 persons were dying each day in their village homes, in the fields, along roadsides, and in the cities of Ukraine. (Wolowyna, graph).

In Kharkiv, most of those who were found dead in the streets were people who left their starving families in the rural villages and collective farms in search of food for sale or barter, or to find work.
However by 1933, with the implementation of residency permits (Liber, Total Wars, 154), farm workers were considered illegal aliens in the city. They were not allowed the required food ration cards; work was not available for most of them; and barter – where not actually illegal, was disproportionately unfair to the rural seller. To return home, was a certain death sentence. But without food or shelter, these immigrants from the countryside slowly began to die in ever increasing numbers throughout the city.

Each day city workers were sent out to collect the dead that were found in the streets into wagons and take them to one of many hastily designated plots of land for mass burial. Often the collection and burial also occurred at night, in order to conceal the scale of death in the city. “Between February and June 1933…the OGPU in Kharkiv recorded that it had surreptitiously buried 2,785 corpses.” (Applebaum, Red Famine, 254).