[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]
HONOURING THE TRUTH, REMEMBERING GARETH JONES
Jones wrote truthfully about the Holodomor even as Walter Duranty did not
By Lubomyr Luciuk, Professor of political geography
Royal Military College of Canada
He was born in Barry and murdered in Mongolia. It was a short life - he was
killed on the eve of his 30th birthday - but the span graced to Gareth
Richard Vaughan Jones was used well. Between 1925-1929 he secured a first
class degree in French from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, then
another in Medieval and Modern Languages from Trinity College, Cambridge.
Fluent in French, Welsh, English, German and Russian, he found employment,
by 1930, as a private secretary for foreign affairs to the Right Honourable
Lloyd George, the First World War leader and only Liberal ever to be a Prime
Minister of the United Kingdom, "the Welsh Wizard."
More interested in journalism than academic life, Jones moved to the Wall
Street offices of Dr Ivy Lee's public relations firm, in 1931. That same
year he made his second trip to the USSR, escorting Jack Heinz II, son of
the founder of the famous "Heinz 57" fortune.
They met many Soviet boosters, from Maurice Hindus to Louis Fischer to
Walter Duranty. They even secured an interview with Lenin's widow, Madame
Krupskaya, first being "thrilled" to view Lenin's mummy in its Red Square
mausoleum, "the body of a man dead seven years."
The Depression forced Jones home but employment awaited with Lloyd George,
later with The Western Mail. As his diary entries and regular Sunday letters
reveal, Jones possessed a near-irrepressible curiosity, coupled to a
determination to interview the great men of his time. And he did - chatting
with Dr Joseph Goebbels, Frank Lloyd Wright, Sir Bernard Pares, Upton
Sinclair, Walter Lippman and William Randolph Hearst, to list but a few.
And, 23 February 1933, he was the first non-Nazi journalist invited to fly
with the Fuhrer to Frankfurt, in Chancellor Hitler's private plane, the
Richtoffen, observing - "If this aeroplane should crash, the whole history
of Europe would be changed."
From Germany he went to "the home of Bolshevism," arriving in Moscow, 6
March 1933, that very evening meeting Malcolm Muggeridge. Then,
surreptitiously, he set out for Kharkiv, intent on learning the truth of
rumours about a great famine. Detraining, he tramped through the Ukrainian
countryside, finding widespread hunger.
His pocket diary recorded a village elder saying: "In the old times we had
horses and cows and pigs and chickens. Now we are dying of hunger. In the
old days we fed the world. Now they have taken all we had away from us.I
should have bade you welcome, and given you, as my guest, chickens and eggs
and milk and fine, white bead. Now we have no bread in the house. They are
Jones returned to Berlin, 29 March, filing numerous articles about the
famine, provoking a near-immediate riposte from none other than Duranty, in
The New York Times, 31 March, "Russians Hungry, but Not Starving."
Belittling Jones, Duranty would justify the forced collectivization of
agriculture with the infamous prescription, "to put it brutally, you can't
make an omelette without breaking eggs."
Dissimulating further, he wrote" "there is no actual starvation or deaths
from starvation but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to
malnutrition." Duranty never admitted how, 26 September 1933, he had called
in at the British Embassy, stating that "as many as 10 million people may
have died directly or indirectly from lack of food in the Soviet Union
during the past year." Nevertheless, he got the 1933 Pulitzer Prize for his
"objective reporting" about the Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, Jones was targeted. Soviet foreign minister Maxim Litvinov
declared him a persona non grata, forever banned from the USSR. Ominously,
he was placed on the secret police's watch list. Like Muggeridge, he was
censured and scorned, repeatedly.
Writing to Jones on 17 April, Muggeridge left an impression of what that was
like. Agreeing that Duranty was, "of course, a plain crook," he complained
of how his own famine articles were censored by the Manchester Guardian's
editor, William Crozier.
Breaking his ties with that newspaper Muggeridge had offered a rejoinder:
"You don't want to know what is going on in Russia, and you don't want your
readers to know either; if the Metrovick [Metropolitan-Vickers Trial] people
had been Jews or Negroes, your righteous indignation would have been
unbounded. You'd have published photographs of their lacerated backsides.
They being just Englishmen, you refuse to publish the truth about their
treatment or the general facts which make that truth significant - and this
when the MG is packed with stories of what the Nazis are doing to the Jews
and the Poles to the Ukrainian and Silesian minorities."
Banned from the USSR, Jones turned his attentions to Asia, in late 1934
embarking on his "Round-the-World-Fact-Finding Tour." Particularly intrigued
by a growing conflict between Imperial Japan and China, Jones ended up in
Manchukuo where, near Kalgan, he met his end, 12 August 1935, having been
kidnapped by Chinese bandits sixteen days earlier.
How Jones died is not in dispute. The investigating officer, Lieutenant K E
F Millar, reported he was dispatched with one bullet to the head, two to the
Why Jones was murdered, however, remains controversial. Was it because he
was an eyewitness to the genocidal Great Famine of 1932-1933 in Soviet
Ukraine, the Holodomor? Certainly, but unbeknownst to him, as he made his
way from Japan to Inner Mongolia, he was surrounded by characters now
known to have been Soviet agents of influence, perhaps worse.
He shared an apartment in Tokyo with Gunther Stein, not knowing it was used
for secret wireless broadcasts to Moscow by the Soviet spy, Richard Sorge.
When Jones set out on his last expedition he traveled in a car provided by a
Mr Purpis, who ran the Wostwag fur trading company, a cover for communist
espionage activities in the Far East.
Their "White Russian" driver, Anatoli, disappeared after the ambush, never
interviewed, while Dr Herbert Muller, his traveling companion, was released
unharmed, no ransom paid. The bandits themselves were then tracked down,
some killed, the others scattered, the immediate perpetrators thus lost to
Perhaps Gareth Jones was just an ill-fated fellow. Or he fell victim to
assassination, being a man who, as Lloyd George wrote, "knew too much
of what was going on." We may never find out.
What is indisputable, however, is that Jones wrote truthfully about the
Holodomor even as Duranty did not. And for that reason a trilingual
Welsh-Ukrainian-English plaque, the first ever, was unveiled at the
University of Wales 2 May 2006.
It hallows the memory of a decent young man who wanted nothing more than
to be an honest reporter and probably paid for his commitment to his calling
with his life. Much better, I say, to honour the truth teller than the
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