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Fraud Famine and Fascism - Thomas Walker The Man Who Never Was

Douglas Totle
The Ukrainian Genocide Myth from Hitler To Harvard

In 1898 various U.S. business interests, including sugar companies, were anxious for the United States to seize Cuba. A pretext was needed to build up pro-war sentiment among the U.S. public. American press magnate William Randolph Hearst, so the story goes, assigned the noted artist Fredrick Remington to Cuba to find evidence of conditions which would justify a U.S. military intervention. Finding nothing out of the ordinary, Remington cabled back to Hearst:
"Everything is quiet here . . . I wish to return." Hearst replied: '"Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war.'"'
In the fall of 1934, an American using the name Thomas Walker entered the Soviet Union. After tarrying less than a week in Moscow, he spent the remainder of his thirteen-day journey in transit to the Manchurian border, at which point he left the USSR never to  return. This seemingly uneventful journey was the pretext for one of the greatest frauds ever  perpetrated in the history of 20th century journalism.

Some four months later, on February 18, 1935, a series of articles began in the Hearst press by Thomas Walker, "noted journalist, traveller and student of Russian  affairs who has spent several years touring the Union of Soviet Russia." The articles, appearing in the Chicago American and New York Evening Journal for example, described in hair-raising prose a  mammoth famine in the Ukraine which, it was alleged, had claimed "six million" lives the previous  year.2 Accompanying the stories were photographs portraying the devastation of the famine, for which it was claimed Walker had smuggled in a camera under the "most adverse and dangerous possible circumstances."

In themselves, Walker's stories in the Hearst press were not particularly outstanding examples of fraud concerning the Soviet Union. Nor were they the greatest  masterpieces of yellow journalism ever produced by the right-wing corporate press. Lies and distortions had been written about the Soviet Union since the days of the October Revolution in 1917. The anti-Soviet press campaigns heated up in the late 20s and 30s, directed  by those, like Hearst, who wanted to keep the USSR out of   the League of Nations and isolated in all   respects.


Thomas Walker's faked stones and photos appeared in the Hearst press 1n February 1935. Other sources claim different photographers, years and seasons tor these laundered pre-1930s photos.  which also show evidence of alteration and touch-up. This excerpt from Hearst's Chicago American (February 25 1935) was published as " famine-genocide" evidence in a 1983 issue of the  Chicago-based Ukrainian Nationalist Journal EKRAN.)

However, the Walker famine photographs are truly remarkable in that, having been exposed as utter hoaxes over fifty years ago, they continue to be used by Ukrainian Nationalists and university propaganda institutes as evidence of alleged genocide. The extent of Walker's fraud can only be measured by the magnitude and longevity of the lie they have been used to portray.

Horror stories about Russia were common in the Western press, particularly among papers and journalists of conservative or fascist orientation. For example, the London Daily Telegram of November 28, 1930, printed an interview with a Frank Eastman Woodhead who had "just returned from Russia after a visit lasting seven months." Woodhead reported witnessing bloody massacres that November, a slaughter which left "rows of ghastly corpses."

Louis Fischer, an American writer for the New Republic and The Nation, who was in Moscow at the 
time of the alleged atrocities, discovered that not only had such events never occurred, but that Woodhead had left the country almost eight months before the scenes he claimed to have witnessed. Fischer challenged Woodhead and the London Daily Telegram on the matter; both responded with embarrassed silence.3

When Thomas Walker's articles appeared in the Hearst press, Fischer became suspicious - he had never heard of Walker and could find no one who had. The results  of his investigation were published in the March 13, 1935 issue of The Nation:
Mr. Walker, we are informed, "entered Russia last spring," that is the spring of 1934. He saw famine. He photographed its victims. He got heartrending, first-hand accounts of hunger's ravages.Now famine in Russia is "hot" news. Why did Mr. Hearst keep these sensational articles for ten months before printing them? My suspicions grew deeper .
I felt more and more sure that he was just another Woodhead, another absentee journalist. And so I consulted Soviet authorities who had official information from Moscow. Thomas Walker was in the Soviet Union once. He received a transit visa from the Soviet Consul in London on September 29, 1934. He entered the USSR from Poland by train at Negoreloye on October 12, 1934. (Not the spring of 1934 as he says.) He was in Moscow on the thirteenth. He remained in Moscow from Saturday, the thirteenth, to Thursday, the eighteenth, and then boarded a trans-Siberian train which brought him to the Soviet-Manchurian border on October 25, 1934, his last day on Soviet territory. His train did not pass within several hundred miles of the black soil and Ukrainian districts which he "toured" and "saw" and "walked over" and "photographed." It would have been physically impossible for Mr. Walker, in the five days between October 13 and October 18, to cover one-third of the points he "describes" from personal experience. My hypothesis is that he stayed long enough in Moscow to gather from embittered foreigners the Ukrainian "local color" he  needed to give his articles  the  fake verisimilitude they possess.
Mr. Walker's photographs could easily date back to the Volga famine in 1921. Many of them might have been taken outside the Soviet Union. They were taken at different seasons of the year ... One picture includes trees or shrubs with large leaves. Such leaves could not have grown by the "late spring" of Mr. Walker's alleged visit. Other photographs show winter and early fall backgrounds.

Here is the Journal of the twenty-seventh. A starving, bloated boy of fifteen calmly poses naked for Mr. Walker. The next moment, in the same village, Mr. Walker photographs a man who is obviously suffering from the cold despite his sheepskin overcoat. The weather that spring must have been as unreliable as Mr. Walker to allow nude poses one moment and require furs the next.
It would be easy to riddle Mr. Walker's stories. They do not deserve the effort. The truth is that the Soviet harvest of 1933, including the Soviet Ukraine's harvest, in contrast to that of 1932, was excellent; the grain-tax collections were moderate; and therefore conditions even remotely resembling those Mr. Walker portrays could not have arisen in the spring of 1934, and did not arise.
Fischer challenged the motives of the Hearst press in hiring a fraud like Walker to concoct such  
... Mr. Hearst, naturally does not object if his papers spoil Soviet-American relations and
encourage foreign nations with hostile military designs upon the USSR. But his real target is the American radical movement. These Walker articles are part of Hearst's anti-red campaign. He knows that the great economic progress registered by the Soviet Union since 1929, when the capitalist world dropped into depression, provides left groups with spiritual encouragement and faith. Mr. Hearst wants to deprive them of that  encouragement and faith by painting a picture of ruin and death in the USSR. The attempt is too transparent, and the hands are too unclean to succeed.
In a pose-script, Fischer added that a Lindsay Parrott had visited Ukraine and had written that nowhere in any city or town he visited "did I meet any signs of the effects of the famine of which foreign correspondents take delight in writing." Parrott, says Fischer, wrote of the "excellent harvest" in 1933; the progress, he declared, "is indisputable." Fischer ends: "The Hearst organizations and the Nazis are beginning co work more and more closely together. But I have not noticed chat the Hearst press printed Mr. Parrott's stories about a prosperous Soviet Ukraine. Mr. Parrott is Mr. Hearst's correspondent in Moscow."

The incredible photographs accompanying Walker's fake stories also aroused the suspicions of James 
Casey, an American investigative writer.

Headlined by Hearst as having "just been taken in the Soviet Union," the photographs were, in fact, 
"resurrected" and "rejuvenated":
Art department heads of Hearst's newspapers have been instructed to dig up old war and post-war pictures from the files ... pictures taken fifteen to eighteen years ago from the war-torn areas of Europe ... Some of the pictures have been retouched to look like new. In other cases, the old war pictures have been rephotographed. As a result, many of them look like prints .4
Some of the photographs were eventually identified as showing scenes from the old Austro-Hungarian empire. One photograph from the New York Evening Journal  (February 18, 1935), was identified by Casey as actually portraying an Austrian cavalry soldier  standing beside a dead horse following a World War I military action.5

Similar faked pictures, Casey noted, "are now appearing in the Voelkischer Beobachter, Der Sturmer 
and other Nazi papers, and  are being circulated throughout Germany." 6

Hearst and Walker were prepared to go to incredible lengths of cynicism and perverse cruelty in exploiting human sentiments of compassion. Famous among the Walker photographs is the "frog child," published with the following caption:
FRIGHTFUL - Below Kharhov (sic), in a typical peasant's hut, dirt floor, thatched roof and one piece of furniture, a bench, was a very thin girl and her 2 1/2 year old brother (shown above). This younger child crawled about the floor like a frog and its poor little body was so deformed from lack of nourishment that it did not resemble a human being. Its mother had died when it was one year old. This child had never tasted milk or butter and only once had tasted meat.7
One might as well say that this photo portrays a relief worker, anywhere in Europe, sitting in a clinic waiting room with a starving or deformed child. There is something unmistakably urban, non-slavic and early l 920'ish about the woman's flapper hat. Furthermore, the woman, who looks perfectly healthy, is dressed for cold weather while "her brother" is naked. The bench has a ribbed back as on old-fashioned office benches, hardly corresponding to the sole household furniture of a "typical peasant."

As used in the Hearst press, this photograph - and other Walker fakes encountered frequently in the famine-genocide campaign - has been retouched and altered. It betrays the appearance of being a doctored copy of a non-primary source, rather than a direct print from a negative. This author has encountered this unforgettable picture in an early 1920s publication of a Russian famine of the period following World War I. In any event, it will be recalled that Walker was never in Ukraine in 1932- 1933.

Thomas Walker's girl with frog-child from Hearst' s New York Evening Journal (February 19, 1935). 
Contradictory claims for the origin of this photo were put forward by Nazi propagandists in the  1930s. A scene from the1920s, thisphoto isstillwidelyused asevidenceof " famine-genocide.' ')

Portions of the 1935 Hearst-Walker series, including some of the photos, had in fact appeared the year previous in the August 6, 1934 London Daily Express. Attributed to an anonymous young English  "tourist," the story includes a virtually identical account of Walker's "frog child" fabrication. However, chis earlier version of the hoax locates the tale in Belgorod - which is in Russia proper.  Subsequent versions of the hoax over the decades politically relocate the story to Kharkov, which is of course in Ukraine.

Thus, at least some of Walker's faked accounts were prepared well in advance of his actual fall of 1934 Soviet visit. It would seem that the Hearst-Walker conspirators decided to come up with an expanded and improved series, including some of the materials published anonymously in Britain. One concludes that Walker's brief Soviet trip was simply an afterthought, a cosmetic gesture for the already planned publication of the series in Hearst's American papers in 1935.

Not only were the photographs a fraud, the trip to Ukraine a fraud, and Hearst's famine-genocide series a fraud, Thomas Walker himself was a fraud. Deported from  England and arrested on his return to the United States just a few months after the Hearst series, it turned out that Thomas Walker was in fact escaped convict Robert Green. The Neu· York Times reported: "Robert Green, a writer of syndicated articles about conditions in Ukraine, who was indicted last Friday by a Federal grand jury on a charge of passport fraud, pleaded guilty yesterday before Federal Judge Francis G. Caffey. The judge learned chat Green was a fugitive from Colorado State Prison, where he escaped after having served two years of an eight-year term for forger y." 8

Robert Green, it was revealed, had run up an impressive criminal record spanning three decades. His 
trail of crime led through five U.S. states and four European countries, and included convictions on charges of violating the Mann White Slave Ace in Texas, forgery, and  "marriage swindle."9

Evidence at Walker's trial revealed that he had made a previous visit to the Soviet Union in 1930 under the name Thomas J. Burke. Having worked briefly for an engineering firm in the USSR, he was - by his own admission - expelled for attempting to smuggle a "whiteguard" out of the country. A reporter covering the trial noted that Walker "admitted that the 'famine' pictures published with his series in the Hearst newspapers were fakes and they were not taken in Ukraine as advertised." 10

The "evidence" of famine-genocide brought to the American public by this "noted journalist" and "witness" lives on in jaundiced historiographiccircles. Walker's material and claims of six million victims are still recognized and issued by history factories like Harvard University's Ukrainian Studies Fund, as well as by the Ukrainian Nationalists' own media. Walker's fake photographs are the most prominently displayed pictorial "evidence" associated with post-war famine-genocide campaigns, despite the fact that this material was exposed as fraudulent immediately following its release in 1935. Apparently it is felt that the risks inherent in duping the public are necessary to further famine-genocide concoctions.11

1. James Creelman in Pearson's Weekly, September 1906.
2. See for example, Thomas Walker, "6,000,000 Starve co Death in Russia"; "Children Starve Among
Soviet Dead"; "Bodies of Soviet Famine Victims Robbed"; "Soviet Drafts Men, Starves Women";
"Starvation Wipes Out Soviet Villages"; New York Eveninf; Journal, February 18, 19, 21, 25, 27,
1935 respectively.
3. Louis Fischer, "Hearst's Russian Famine," The Nation, Vol. 140, No. 3636, March 13, 1935.
4. Daily Worker, February 21, 1935.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. New York American, March 3, 1935.
8. New York Times, July 16, 1935.
9. Daily Worker, July 20, 1935.
10. Ibid.
11. Among the many publications which use Walker's fraudulent materials as historical proof are:
"The Soviet Famine of 1932-1934" by Dana Dalrymple, Soviet Studies, January 1964; The Ninth Circle by Olexa Woropay, Harvard Ukrainian Studies Fund, 1983; The Great Famine in Ukraine: The Unknown Holocaust, Ukrainian National Association (USA), 1983; 50 Years Aio: The Famine Holocaust in Ukraine - Terror and Human Misery as Instruments of Soviet Russian Imperialism by Walter Dushnyck, 1983; Witness: Memoirs of the Famine of 1933 in Ukraine by Pavlo Makohon, Anabasis, 1983; Human Life in Russia by Ewald Ammende, John T. Zubal, 1984 (reprint of the 1936 edition); Harvest of Sorrow by Robert Conquest, University of Alberta Pres , 1986; Famine in the Soviet Ukraine 1932-1933: A Memorial Exhibition prepared by Oksana Procyk, Leonid Heretz and James E. Mace, Widener Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Harvard College Library, 1986.
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