Out of Frame


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Video essays that explore the intersection of art, culture, and big ideas written & produced by FEE's Director of Media, Sean W. Malone.

The Holocaust The New York Times Ignored

July 16, 2020

Between 1932 and 1933, the Soviet Union deliberately starved to death somewhere between 7 and 10 million people, mostly Ukrainians, in an act of genocide known as the Holodomor. But almost no one outside of the Soviet Union knew about this holocaust for decades. The film Mr. Jones directed by Agnieszka Holland and starring James Norton and Peter Sarsgaard shows us why.

The film is based on the true story of freelance Welsh reporter Gareth Jones. In the midst of the Great Depression and the global economic turmoil that came with it, Jones is concerned about the situation in Germany where Hitler has just risen to power. He’s convinced that the Nazis are a threat to the rest of Europe. But given the economic realities of the times, there’s no way Britain could afford another war. The only solution Jones sees to the imminent threat of Hitler and the Nazis is an alliance with Stalin and the Soviet Union who are, according to all the news reports, not simply weathering the crisis, but actually flourishing.

Jones arranges a trip to Moscow with the intention of interviewing Stalin and assessing the Soviets’ ability to hold off a hostile Germany, but when he gets there, he discovers a new mystery. Things aren’t quite right in Moscow. Surveillance, dodging questions, travel restrictions, questionable arrests, suspicious deaths. And hushed whispers by foreign reporters of “something big” happening in Ukraine.

Jones manages to get some unsupervised time in Ukraine—an area that was supposed to be the Black Earth Region, the breadbasket of Europe—and finds horrific conditions. The people there are starving. The grain they’re forced to grow on the newly-collectivized farms is confiscated, along with everything else edible. The people are resorting to eating tree bark and even cannibalism.

This is what the reporters in Moscow were whispering about. This is what New York Times Bureau Chief (and Pulitzer Prize winner) Walter Duranty attempted to distract him from in Moscow. And when Jones finally makes it back home and begins to speak and write about what he saw in Ukraine, it’s what Duranty and the rest of the foreign press corps in Moscow promptly discredit through The New York Times and their home newspapers despite knowing that Jones is telling the truth.

The Communist Party, led by Stalin, managed to cover up millions of deaths—a true holocaust—through a combination of censorship, intimidation, and the willful complicity of people like Walter Duranty and The New York Times. Although the press largely ignored the Holodomor nearly a century ago, Mr. Jones offers serious lessons that force us to reflect on the state of journalism in 2020.


Produced by Sean W. Malone
Written by Jen Maffessanti & Sean W. Malone
Edited by Paul Nelson
Asst. Edited by Jason Reinhardt


--History of the Holodomor and It’s Cover-Up--

--Regarding Mr. Jones--

--Truth, Lies, and Consequences--

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