OVERVIEW 1933

Before Gareth officially left the employ of David Lloyd George he embarked on a journey of Europe mainly to see for himself the situation in the continent and in particular Germany followed by the Soviet Union. He was in Germany the day Adolf Hitler was made Chancellor and then two weeks later flew with him in his famous aeroplane the "Richthofen". With his usual energy he travelled to the Soviet Union and after a few days in Moscow he left with his knapsack full of food for the journey. He boarded a train hard class to Ukraine so that he might meet the typical person en route to Ukraine. In his press release he describes the train journey. On reaching his destination he undertook his well known tramp through 20 villages and saw for himself the tragedy of hunger and starvation. He spent a night in a cottage and when he shared his white bread and butter and cheese one of the peasant women said, "Now I have eaten such wonderful things I can die happy." He set forth again further towards the south and heard the villagers say, "We are waiting for death." Time and time again he heard the cry: "There is no bread. We are dying."

Returning to Berlin from the Soviet Union, Gareth Jones made his famous press release on the 29th of March 1933 and this was printed in many American and British newspapers including the New York Evening Post and the Manchester Guardian:

London Evening Standard 31 March 1933

Photo from Gareth's Cuttings book of his first signed article on the famine from The London Evening Standard, 31st March 1933.

"I walked along through villages and twelve collective farms. Everywhere was the cry, 'There is no bread. We are dying. This cry came from every part of Russia, from the Volga, Siberia, White Russia, the North Caucasus, Central Asia. I tramped through the black earth region because that was once the richest farmland in Russia and because the correspondents have been forbidden to go there to see for themselves what is happening.

In the train a Communist denied to me that there was a famine. I flung a crust of bread which I had been eating from my own supply into a spittoon. A peasant fellow-passenger fished it out and ravenously ate it. I threw an orange peel into the spittoon and the peasant again grabbed it and devoured it. The Communist subsided. I stayed overnight in a village where there used to be 200 oxen and where there now are six. The peasants were eating the cattle fodder and had only a month's supply left. They told me that many had already died of hunger. Two soldiers came to arrest a thief. They warned me against travel by night, as there were too many 'starving' desperate men.

'We are waiting for death' was my welcome, ' but see, we still, have our cattle fodder. Go farther south. There they have nothing. Many houses are empty of people already dead,' they cried."

On the 31st of March the infamous denial of Jones' statement was made by Walter Duranty in the New York Times stating there was no famine and these were the headlines to that article RUSSIANS HUNGRY, BUT NOT STARVING. Duranty was their Marxist Foreign Correspondent on Moscow and the 1932 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Duranty maintained that the high death rate was from diseases due to malnutrition, that the larger cities had food and that it was Ukraine, North Caucasus and Lower Volga Regions that suffered from shortages. He said the Kremlin denied the doom and that Russian and Foreign Observers in the Soviet Union could see not grounds for the predications of disaster. He went on to say that:

Mr. Jones is a man of a keen and active mind, and he has taken the trouble to learn Russian, which he speaks with considerable fluency, but the writer thought Mr. Jones's judgment was somewhat hasty and asked him on what it was based. It appeared that he had made a forty-mile walk through villages in the neighbourhood of Kharkov and had found conditions sad. I suggested that that was a rather inadequate cross-section of a big country but nothing could shake his conviction of impending doom.

In Eugene Lyons' 1937 book Assignment in Utopia, written after his disillusionment with the Great Soviet Socialist Experiment, he describes how the Moscow Foreign Correspondents publicly denied Gareth Jones' portrayal of the shocking situation in Soviet Russia and Ukraine; even after they had had queries from their home offices on the subject of the famine. … Persuaded by the head censor in the Bolshevik News Agency, Comrade Umansky, these correspondents were placed in position where they more or less had to condemn Gareth Jones as a liar. To quote Lyons: "Throwing down Jones was as unpleasant a chore as fell to any of us in years of juggling facts to please dictatorial regimes - but throw him down we did, unanimously and in almost identical formulas of equivocation. Poor Gareth Jones must have been the most surprised human being alive when the facts he so painstakingly garnered from our mouths were snowed under by our denials."

On May 13th the New York Times published a reply in a letter which Jones wrote saying that he stood by every word he said:

While partially agreeing with my Statement, he implied that my report was a "scare story" and compared it with certain fantastic prophecies of Soviet downfall. He also made the strange suggestion that I was forecasting the doom of the Soviet régime, a forecast I have never ventured.

I stand by my statement that Soviet Russia is suffering from a severe famine. It would be foolish to draw this conclusion from my tramp through a small part of vast Russia, although I must remind Mr. Duranty that it was my third visit to Russia, that I devoted four years of university life to the study of the Russian language and history and that on this occasion alone I visited in all twenty villages, not only in the Ukraine, but also in the black earth district, and in the Moscow region, and that I slept in peasants' cottages, and did not immediately leave for the next village.

Following this Gareth was to write many articles about the plight of the peasants in the Soviet Union in British and American newspapers. M. Litvinoff, the Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs, accused him of espionage in a letter to David Lloyd George and banned Gareth from returning to the U.S.S.R. This was no doubt a disappointment to Gareth as he was unable to return to a country about which he had spent so much time studying her literature, history and language.

From 1933 to 1934, Gareth was employed as a journalist and reporter to the Welsh newspaper, the Western Mail. Not only in his articles did he write about Russia, Germany, Ireland and unemployment, but he wrote about the craftsmen of rural Wales in the 1930's; trades that have been largely lost to posterity. His articles are a delight to read and after his death many were incorporated in a small book entitled In Search of News, the proceeds of which went towards a Travelling Scholarship. Today this scholarship is still being awarded to graduates of the University of Wales.

In October 1934, Gareth left Britain on a 'Round the World Fact Finding Tour'. He spent three months in the United States and during the time there he visited Wales, Wisconsin where he had the privilege of interviewing Frank Lloyd Wright. But Gareth's main reason for the tour was to visit the Far East, this area being an enigma to the western world. Gareth intended to investigate the Japanese designs of expansion in the Far East and in particular with relation to northern China and Manchukuo. Five or six weeks were spent in Japan where he interviewed a number of Japanese politicians who were influencing world events. Previous to arriving in China he visited many countries in the Far East including the Philippines, Dutch East Indies, Singapore, Siam, French Indo-China and Hong Kong before he reached Beijing and in each place he called on the Japanese Consuls. He enquired from the ex-patriots their views on the current political situation in relation to Japan's intentions. On arrival in Beijing, Gareth received from Baron von Plessen an invitation to attend the meeting of the Mongol Princes and to meet the pro-Japanese Prince Teh Wang. The baron returned to Beijing leaving Gareth in the company of a German, Dr. Herbert Müller to travel in Inner Mongolia believing it to be free of bandits. They ventured into territory that had been had infiltrated by Japanese a few days earlier and where the pair found troops were massing. They were apprehended by the Japanese military for some hours, but when released they were informed that there were three ways back to the Chinese town of Kalgan, one of which was safe. Taking this route on the following day they were captured by bandits and held for ransom for 100,000 Mexican dollars. The German was released within two days, but after 16 days in captivity, the bandits, disbanded Chinese soldiers whose families may have been held to ransom by the Japanese murdered Gareth.

Gareth Jones' death on the eve of his thirtieth birthday was a tragic loss not only to his family but to the world and society as a whole. He had revealed to the world the terrible famine in the Soviet Union and Ukraine; he predicted the Second World War in Europe would breakout following the Danzig Corridor dispute and the designs of territorial expansion by the Japanese would bring about a conflagration in the Far East.

To quote David Lloyd George: "Mr. Gareth Jones knew too much."


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