Alexander Wienerberger: Innitzer Album



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Alexander Wienerberger: Innitzer Album

A Note on the Collection

The Innitzer album is the popular name of an album of photographs that were taken by the Austrian engineer Alexander Wienerberger in 1933 while he was working as a managing consultant in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s capital at that time.

The photographs depict starving residents from the rural heartland of Ukraine flocking to Kharkiv on foot; the endless lines of city residents waiting to buy their meager ration of food ; the homeless rural residents – young and old alike, struggling to survive and dying on the city’s streets, hastily dug mass graves just outside the city.

In September 1933, Cardinal Theodor Innitzer of Vienna, the presiding Roman Catholic archbishop in Austria at that time had established a widely publicized interfaith humanitarian relief committee to provide aid to the starving in Soviet Ukraine and the German colonies in Russia. The Soviet government in Moscow, however, emphatically denied the existence of famine, and the committee’s offers of assistance were refused. When Wienerberger returned to Austria in 1934, he compiled a set of 25 photographs into an album he titled Die Hungertragödie in Südrussland 1933 [The Tragedy of Famine in South Russia, 1933]. He wrote a brief dedication statement with his signature on the back of the album cover and presented it as a gift of respect and gratitude to Cardinal Innitzer for his efforts. The album remains to this day in the Diocesan Archive in Vienna.

Alexander Wienerberger took his photos during the spring and summer of 1933, and many were specific to a district of the city known as “Холодна Гора” (“Cold Mountain”), or as Wienerberger referred to it in his native German, “Kalten Berg,” where the factory that he managed was located. For the purpose of retaining Wienerberger’s thematic sequence, the photos in the collection presented here are in the order in which they appear in the album, beginning with the photo that is affixed to the album’s cover. We have included with each photo a listing of all known publications of that photo during the 1930s as well as the identification of any known unpublished prints, along with their accompanying captions.

A second album of Alexander Wienerberger’s original prints from his last years in the Soviet Union exists in the private collection of Samara Pearce, the photographer’s great-granddaughter. (See “Alexander Wienerberger: Beyond the Innitzer Album. A Collection Note” in this Directory). Sometimes referred to as the “Red Album” because of the color of its cover, this album contains several of the photos that appear in the Innitzer Album. In the Holodomor Photo Directory, we have included the Red Album versions of photos along with their corresponding Innitzer Album records in the Innitzer Collection.

In a few cases, we also include a version of the same photo that was published in the 1930s when the difference in cropping is enough to present a different perspective on what is seen in the photograph. In one case, the same scene was also shot at slightly different time intervals, and we present both versions.

From the Archives to Public Resource

The late Prelate Alexander Ostheim-Dzerowicz is credited with discovering the pocket-sized album in the Diocesan Archives and bringing it to the attention of other Ukrainian scholars.[1][2] Prelate Alexander Ostheim-Dzerowicz was pastor of St. Barbara’s parish in Vienna at the time, as well as a highly regarded scholar, lawyer and advocate who later became Vicar General for Catholics of the Byzantine Rite throughout Austria. When in the late 1980s the World Congress of Free Ukrainians (now World Congress of Ukrainians) established the International Commission of Inquiry into the 1932-33 Famine in Ukraine, one of the many supporting documents compiled for the Commission was “The 1933 Original Photographs from Kharkiv, Ukraine.”[3] This compilation, stamped as “Exhibit # P-42,” included excerpts from Wienerberger's memoir Hart auf Hart as well as page-by-page photocopies of the contents of the Innitzer album. Also included were a letter from the Diocesan Archive’s Director that attested to Prelate Ostheim-Dzerowicz’s role in supplying the copies from the Archives, to the authenticity of the photographs, and to the legitimacy of their attribution to Alexander Wienerberger.

Unfortunately, this very important discovery of fully authenticated photographic depictions of Holodomor conditions in Ukraine was not widely publicized. (See “Alexander Wienerberger: a Biographical Essay,” Part II, in this Directory). It was only in the first decade of the twenty-first century that all the photos from the Innitzer Album were made available, with full attribution, in a scholarly resource. Thanks to Ukrainian historian Vasyl Marochko, who obtained copies of the photos in 2003, they were included and attributed to Wienerberger in the monumental study Голод 1932–1933 років в Україні: причини та наслідки (1932-1933 Famine in Ukraine: Causes and Consequences.[4] Shortly thereafter, they were made available in small format on the website of the Pshenychny Central State CinePhotoPhono Archives of Ukraine (TSDKFFA).[5]

In the last two decades, many of the photos have been reproduced in a variety of print and other media, though often unattributed and often with misleading captions. More recently, filmmaker Andrew Tkach received copies from the Diocesan Archives showing the album and its contents. With the permission of Wienerberger’s great grand-daughter, Samara Pearce, these images were then posted on Facebook in 2017 by the Holodomor Research and Education Centre, Kyiv, and subsequently shared on other social media and websites.

  1. Klid, “Email to Author,” February 7, 2018.
  2. Vogl, “Email to Author,” January 11, 2019.
  3. Wienerberger and International Commission of Inquiry into the 1932-33 Famine in Ukraine, “Exhibit # P-42.”
  4. Литвин, Голод 1932–1933 Років в Україні: Причини Та Наслідки.
  5. “Контекст Трагедії (1929-1933): Офіційні Фотодокументи.”

Sources cited
  • Klid, Bohdan. “Email to Author,” February 7, 2018.
  • Vogl, Josef. “Email to Author,” January 11, 2019.
  • Wienerberger, Alexander, and International Commission of Inquiry into the 1932-33 Famine in Ukraine. “Exhibit # P-42.” The Commission, 1988.
  • “Контекст Трагедії (1929-1933): Офіційні Фотодокументи,” n.d. Центральний державний кінофотофоноархів України імені Г.С. Пшеничного. https://old.archives.gov.ua/Sections/Famine/photos.php.
  • Литвин, В. М., ed. Голод 1932–1933 Років в Україні: Причини Та Наслідки. Київ: Нац. акад. наук України, Ін-т історії України: Наукова думка, 2003.