What Germans Knew and How It Affected Them: Paolo Fonzi on the Great Famine

March 23, 2016
Paolo Fonzi

Paolo FonziOn Monday, March 28, HURI’s Seminar in Ukrainian Studies features Paolo Fonzi, Shklar/USF Fellow, and his research on how Germans perceived the Great Famine in Ukraine. The presentation is of particular interest to scholars of Ukraine and Germany, but it is open to anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of this event.

We asked Fonzi to provide a preview of his talk and some information about the research he’s doing at HURI. The seminar takes place at 4:15 in Room S-050, CGIS South, Harvard University. All are welcome.

HURI: Your seminar on Monday is entitled, “The German Perception of the Great Famine, 1932‒1933.” What can we expect?

Fonzi: Based on a publication project of German documents (mostly diplomatic reports) about the Great Famine, the seminar will examine what the Germans knew about this crucial event and how they perceived it. Moreover, it will investigate how knowledge of the Great Famine impacted German cultural and political life of the 30s.

For example, prior to the famine, German experts and diplomats entertained hopes that the Soviet Union would undergo a process of de-Bolshevization and thus of stabilization. The Great Famine dashed those hopes, thus affecting diplomatic relations between Germany and the Soviet Union.

HURI: As a Shklar/USF Fellow at HURI, why did you decide to focus on the famine in your research?

Great FamineFonzi: The topic of the German perception of the Great Famine has received scant attention by the scholarship, although Germans of that time were well informed about it. The study has a great potential to enhance our understanding not only of the famine itself but also of its perception abroad.

HURI has supported much research on the Great Famine. Suffice it to mention that the first comprehensive study of the famine (R. Conquest Harvest of Sorrow, 1986) was the result of a project initiated by HURI.

HURI: Can you share one particular fact or insight that you find particularly interesting or surprising?

Fonzi: The fact that the Germans had deep understanding of complex social dynamics leading to and unleashed by the famine.

Paolo Fonzi received his PhD in history, jointly awarded by the University of Naples and Humbolt University of Berlin, with a dissertation on monetary plans for a National Socialist Grossraumwirtschaft, 1939-1945, which was published as a book in 2011. He has been Research Fellow at the National Institute for the History of the National Liberation Movement (Milan) and at the German Historical Institute (Rome). His main research interests include German history in the 20th century, with a particular focus on National Socialism and the German occupations during the Second War World, theories and history of fascism as a transnational phenomenon, and German perception of the Soviet Union during the Weimar Republic and Nazi era. While at HURI he will continue conducting research on “German Documents on the Great Famine”.