Gareth Jones

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"Western Journalism and the Holodomor - Research Update on Gareth Jones – A Man Who Knew Too Much


N. L. Colley

Mau Conference, Kyiv, Ukraine, June 2008


“What can you expect if you fearlessly expose the systematic, genocidal murder of 10 million people? You can expect to be branded as a liar in the most prestigious newspaper in the United States. You can expect to be murdered yourself by bandits probably in the pay of conspirators perpetrating equally colossal, monstrous crimes against humanity. And you can even expect to be betrayed after your death and virtually airbrushed out of existence.”


In the early 1920s, foreign newspapers were invited to start reporting from the Soviet Union. However, the Bolsheviks then carefully controlled news propaganda and afforded access to their favoured journalists such as Walter Duranty of the New York Times. Duranty, the then current 1932 Pulitzer Prize winner for Correspondence, was regarded as instrumental in helping to forge diplomatic relations between the USA and the Soviet Union. His reporting certainly did not withstand editorial censorship of the Bolsheviks. He wrote a damning counter report to that of Gareth Jones, my great uncle, who was the first named western reporter to expose the Ukraine famine-genocide in March 1933, much to the annoyance of Foreign Commissar Litvinov, who was in the middle of delicate negotiations with the USA, in seeking diplomatic recognition for the fledgling USSR regime.

 Gareth Jones was born in 1905; in the then, thriving coal-mining port of Barry, South Wales. From his childhood, Gareth’s family background clearly instilled in him strong values of religious Welsh Non-Conformism and British political Liberalism, which inevitably led, after the Great War, to an idealistic hope for international pacifism under the auspices of the League of Nations, for which his parents were leading South Wales’ proponents.

Gareth attained a first-class honours degree in French & German from Aberystwyth University, in Wales in 1926 and then went on to win a full-scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied German & Russian language and literature. Gareth had a desire to experience and report on the real life experiences of the Bolshevik regime. Rather than just an understanding form an academic viewpoint.

To this end, on 1 Jan 1930, Gareth joined former Prime Minister David Lloyd George’s Secretariat and in the summer of 1930, he was invited by the Bolshevik Foreign Office to visit USSR for the first time. As the eyes and ears of his employer he was to examine the virtues of Communism and their revolutionary five-year plan of Collectivisation & Industrialisation, in comparison to the then current malaises of Capitalism, following the 1929 Wall Street Crash. After having been ‘officially’ shown the rose-tinted Soviet Union, Gareth then made an unaccompanied pilgrimage to Hughesovka, now known as Donetsk; where his mother had, in the late 19th century been governess to the Welsh Hughes family who founded the steel city. However his visit led him to conclude that; “The [Bolshevik] government is the most brutal in the world … there will be great suffering, many riots and many deaths.”

On returning to London, Gareth attracted the attention of The Times editor, Geoffrey Dawson, who was extremely impressed with his independent assessment of the Communist regime. He commissioned Gareth to write three articles in a series entitled; ‘The Two Russias’. This allowed him the platform to present an independent and considered appraisal of the Five-Year Plan, which remains arguably the most accurate Western reporting to have emanated from the Soviet Union at the time.  It also first documented the onset of hunger conditions, He concluded his series with a somewhat prophetic article in which stated that; “The success of the [5-Year] Plan would strengthen the hands of the Communists throughout the world. It might make the twentieth century, a century of struggle between Capitalism and Communism.”

In 1931 he was headhunted to work in Wall Street for the foremost Public Relations agency in the world, Ivy Lee Associates, as their Soviet expert in New York. In the summer of 1931, Gareth was asked to escort a young Jack Heinz II on a six week tour of the USSR, with a view to selling Heinz’s range of ‘Hot Beans’.  During this visit, Gareth first met Duranty, as well as Eugene Lyons, the United Press Correspondent, who noted the meticulous nature of Gareth’s research.

Gareth kept three diaries of his trip and Heinz incorporated these into an anonymously-written book; Experiences in Russia –1931: A Diary recording the disastrous plight of the peasants. This was arguably, the first Western book to ‘honestly’ report the onset of famine and starvation within the Soviet Union. Once again he sort to uncover ‘The Real Russia’, ”With knowledge of Russia and the Russian language, it was possible to get off the beaten path, to talk with grimy workers and rough peasants, as well as such leaders as Lenin’s widow and Karl Radek [editor of Pravda].  We visited vast engineering projects and factories, slept on the bug-infested floors of peasants’ huts, shared black bread and cabbage soup with the villagers - in short, got into direct touch with the Russian people in their struggle for existence and were thus able to test their reactions to the Soviet Government’s dramatic moves.

In October 1931, Gareth was again commissioned by The Times to write another three uncensored articles entitled; “The Real Russia”, where he documented the deteriorating agricultural conditions and fate of the Kulaks a once, supposed ‘rich’ but now impoverished and starving peasant class and traditional enemy of the Bolsheviks.

In May 1932, Gareth returned to London to work for Lloyd George again, where unbeknown to many he assisted in researching secret British Cabinet documents for the former Prime Minister’s War Memoirs. By late autumn many informed sources who had just returned from the USSR such as Professor Jules Menken of the LSE & Sir Bernard Pares (the leading British Soviet expert) had told Gareth privately that a famine was indeed raging in Ukraine and millions were likely to perish that winter. Immediately in response to this disastrous news, Gareth penned two articles for the Cardiff Western Mail entitled; ‘Will There be Soup?’ in order to highlight the issue. However, he decided he would have to see and report on the famine for himself, otherwise it could be officially denied.

On 23 February 1933, en route to Moscow, Gareth became the first foreign journalist to fly with Hitler, the newly appointed German Chancellor, Gareth prophetically wrote in the Western Mail: “If this aeroplane should crash then the whole history of Europe would be changed. For a few feet away sits Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany and leader of the most volcanic nationalist awakening which the world has seen.

Arriving in Moscow on the 5 March 1933, Gareth filled a rucksack with food and set off by train towards the South. In the absence of an entry permit into Ukraine, Gareth quietly got off the train close to the Ukrainian border, whilst still in Russia and then proceeded to ‘tramp’ along the snow-laden railway track for two days in Ukraine, stopping-off in villages along the way to talk with peasants and witness the ravages of famine for himself. 

Upon leaving the Soviet Union, Gareth held a press conference on 29 March in Berlin and that same evening his allegations of; “Famine Grips Russia, Millions Dying” hit the front pages of American newspapers and in the following days, he had 20 articles of his own published in several national newspapers. Within 24-hours of his expose, on 31 March, Walter Duranty with classic sophistry refuted Gareth’s truthful reporting stating in The New York Times; “There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation, but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition”. Undaunted by Duranty’s reputation, in a stinging reply to the editor, Gareth wrote; ‘Censorship has turned them [journalists] into masters of euphemism and understatement’ and ‘in conclusion [may I] congratulate the Soviet Foreign Office on its skill in concealing the true situation in the U.S.S.R.?”

Gareth was subsequently placed on the black list of the Soviet Secret police and Maxim Litvinov personally banned him from re-entering the USSR as well as accusing him of espionage.  In a private letter to Lloyd George, Gareth (aged just 27) in relation to the famine, wrote; “The situation is so grave, so much worse than in 1921 that I am amazed at your admiration for Stalin.”  However, Lloyd George was displeased with having his name associated with criticism of Stalin, whom he saw as a strong leader. As a result he did not converse with Gareth again.

On the 1 April, 1933 Gareth commenced work at the Western Mail however he was consigned to covering Welsh rural arts & crafts; and did not  publishing another article on either Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union during the following twelve months, which was to become his ‘wilderness year’.

Lady Luck eventually smiled down on him again in June 1934; it just so happened that the world’s most powerful press baron, Randolph Hearst, owned a castle outside Cardiff, which he used as his UK base. Gareth interviewed him for his newspaper, just at the time when Hearst was about remove his own papers’ support for the Bolsheviks.. They clearly got on well, as Hearst invited Gareth to meet him again in California to spearhead an anti-Soviet campaign in January 1935.

As a result of tumultuous events in Nazi Germany during the summer of 1934, Gareth’s political expertise was again in great demand, but in October 1934 he set off from Britain on a round the world fact-finding tour; with a view to discovering “what the Japanese were up to in Northern China’. To fund this trip, Gareth set up a lecture tour of the States, several radio broadcasts and was commissioned to write a series of articles for the Manchester Guardian, the Berliner Tageblatt, which was the last remaining Non-Nazi paper in Germany and also for Hearst stable of newspapers.

At 3 a.m. on January 1st, 1935, Gareth arrived at the private railway station of Hearst’s palatial ranch of St. Simeon. As he alighted the train, the film star, Chico Marx ascended, having just left Hearst’s New Year celebrations. At lunch that day, Hearst afforded Gareth carte blanche to write a series of most heart-rending articles by repeating his famine observations of 1933.

Directly after publication of these Hearst articles in mid-January 1935, Gareth set off for Japan; stopping-off in Hawaii, where he wrote an article, prophesying that if Japan were ever to the invade the USA, then they would first attack Pearl Harbor! On arrival in Tokyo, no doubt flaunting his former association with Lloyd George, Gareth was able to facilitate interviews with some of the leading politicians in Japan. Bluntly, he asked the Japanese War Minister; “Some Chinese fear that Japan will attack North China.  Has this fear any basis?

Unbeknown to Gareth, a month after his three Hearst articles, in late February 1935, a journalist called Thomas Walker also had a series of five anti-Soviet articles published by Hearst. Walker had supposedly been in Ukraine in 1934, where he claimed that the famine was still raging and he had managed to secretly take photos of his trip. However, Stalinist apologist, Louis Fischer on the 13 March 1935 wrote an open letter to Hearst in The Nation magazine and was able to completely discredit Walker, by proving that some of his photos were from the previous famine of 1921.

In a very curious postscript to this open letter, Fischer challenged Hearst to provide him with a facsimile of Walker’s passport and Soviet visa. Incredibly, three months later in June 1935, Walker was deported from the UK and on arrival in New York was re-arrested under his real name Robert Green & then immediately charged with passport fraud – he was subsequently found out to be an escaped convict and on-the-run for 14-years from Colorado jail; originally sentenced for forgery. At trial, Walker claimed he had previously been expelled from USSR in 1930 for attempting to help a ‘Whiteguardsman’ escape the USSR.

Now how did Fisher know back in March 1935, that Walker was travelling on a false passport, three months before his London arrest? Was he informed by the Soviets, who also supplied him with Walker's ‘supposed’ 1934 USSR travel dates?  And, who tipped off the British authorities? One wonders, if perhaps Walker would have dared to visit the USSR again in 1934, after being supposedly ‘expelled’ in 1930, just for sake of five Hearst articles, which on their own, would not have paid for a round the world trip. One might also consider that wasn’t journalism a bit of a risky ‘public’ profession for an escaped convict? Was Walker perhaps ‘hiding’ from US authorities in a Soviet Gulag, since being expelled from the USSR for his supposed Soviet crime in 1930 would have been unusual to say the least…Was Walker perhaps supplied with plausible articles and photos & then recruited, in exchange for temporary freedom merely to dupe Hearst?  But supplied by whom? Hearst certainly had a reputation for not allowing the truth to get in the way of a good story and even though similar photos appeared in unsigned articles the London Daily Express six months before Walker’s, and possibly attributed to Dr Ewald Ammende, Secretary General of the European Nationalities Congress, it certainly doesn’t explain the role of the shady character of Thomas Walker..

Nevertheless, without Fischer having to even mention Gareth’s earlier articles for Hearst, they and his original articles from 1933 were effectively tarnished by the same brush as Walker’s clearly fraudulent articles. Fischer implied that the conservative press had continually lied about a non-existent famine simply to discredit the Bolshevik regime. Gareth’s famine articles for Hearst, like the 1932-33 Ukrainian Holodomor were then both almost forgotten for half a century. No academic studying the Holodomor had ever seen these articles until 2003, when they turned up by sheer chance, in a scrap-book of newspaper cuttings, sent by an elderly reader to the offices of the Ukraine Weekly in New Jersey.

As for Gareth’s fate, he later arrived in Peking on July 4th 1935 and was invited by Dr Herbert Mueller, a German journalist to attend the festival of the Mongolian Princes in Inner Mongolia. Mueller had assured Gareth about the intended trip; “Absolutely safe, no bandits!” A car was kindly put at their disposal by Mueller’s acquaintance, Adam Purpis, known as ‘the king of Kalgan’, who was head of a German company, called Wostwag, which had sole trading rights with Soviet Outer Mongolia. Unfortunately, on their return to Kalgan, the pair were apprehended by bandits. Unusually in Chinese kidnapping incidents, Mueller was released after two days in order to secure the ransom for Gareth’s release.

Tragically, Gareth was shot after 17 days in captivity on the very eve of his 30th birthday on 12 August 1935. British Public records now show that Wostwag was a major covert arm of the Soviet NKVD, who acted as the ‘de facto’ bankers and arms dealers to the Chinese Communist Party. Of Adam Purpis, according to US Intelligence he was; ’one of the shrewdest and cleverest men in the Far East’ and a known Chekist. As for Dr Mueller, the British also had a 34-year dossier on the Communist associations.

All of the above evidence is merely circumstantial and the mystery behind Gareth’s murder may never have be proven, but who benefited from Gareth’s murder?

Firstly, the embarrassment of the Japanese being implicated in Gareth’s murder by Dr Mueller, resulted in no further territorial expansion across Northern China until the 1937 Rape of Nanking, which allowed the NKVD, Wostwag operation to continue to supply Mao Zedong with weapons during their Long March and afterwards.

Secondly, Gareth was a ‘loose cannon’ and definitely a thorn in the side of the Soviets.  Perhaps his integrity and virtuosity were his ultimate downfall; otherwise the Soviets might have been able to have blackmailed him into silence and submission. Certainly to Litvinov, the old Chekist, Gareth would have been quite expendable, especially for nearly scuppering his Soviet diplomatic recognition negotiations with the USA (plus after being afforded a treasured private interview, which other resident Moscow journalists would have figuratively ‘killed’ for), but nethertheless, indeed ‘killed’ he was...

Gareth’s three small personal diaries relating to his courageous trip to Ukraine in 1933 (and which were effectively ‘lost’ for over 50 years; kept by his mother for posterity after his murder and only discovered by sheer accident, in the late 1980s) probably represent the only independent western verification of Stalin’s greatest atrocity, claiming more victims than the trenches of WWI.

In the following years after Gareth’s death, he was almost, but not quite forgotten… One man, George Orwell, certainly remembered him and may well have alluded to Gareth as one of his characters in Animal Farm, namely; Mr Jones – the Farmer, even though he alludes to Tsar Nicholas, as Jones is a Welsh surname and the fairytale is set on a typical English farm.

Just after Gareth’s murder in 1935, Orwell explained his need to start writing politically, stating: “I remember a little poem that I wrote at that date, expressing my dilemma;

I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls, And woke to find it true; I wasn't born for an age like this; Was Smith? Was Jones? Were you?’”

Without any doubt, Orwell’s personal ‘bible’ to the atrocities of the Ukrainian man-made famine, was Eugene Lyons’ 1937 Assignment in Utopia, which Orwell reviewed in June 1938 for the New English Weekly. Lyons clearly documented that the Moscow’s press corps deliberately conspired to denigrate Gareth’s famine allegations, when he wrote: ‘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.

In direct comparison, Orwell wrote in Animal Farm; “the human beings were inventing fresh lies about Animal Farm. Once again it was being put about that all the animals were dying of famine and disease.” Therefore, Orwell certainly knew of Gareth and he also alluded to Duranty again when he wrote in Animal Farm referring to Ukrainians as poultry; “Nine hens had died of ‘coccidiosis’ [A disease specific to chickens]”, which directly alludes to Duranty’s famine denial of; “There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation, but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.”

Lloyd George, shocked by Gareth’s death, made a statement, quoted in most British newspapers stating, “That part of the world [Inner Mongolia] is a cauldron of conflicting intrigue and one or other interests concerned probably knew that Mr. Gareth Jones knew too much of what was going on.”

Though the Bolsheviks and the Western media unarguably colluded to cover up for decades the murder of millions of Ukrainians, then perhaps the rediscovery of Gareth’s truthful reporting, vindicates that his pen was eventually mightier than the Soviet sword. Was Gareth worldly-wise or merely plain stupid to stand up for the courage of his convictions? At the end of the day, it matters not; he did what was morally right – for him the truth mattered most; it always did and even today, his honourable deeds should be a warning from history, for every future dictator and journalist to heed… 

Finally, Gareth Jones was without any shadow of doubt, a true hero of not only Wales, but Ukraine as well, and his premature death deprived the world, the wisdom of a true humanitarian and silenced one of the very few Western witnesses of the 1932-33 Holodomor. There is no doubt that Gareth was, as Lloyd George remarked; ‘a man who knew too much’.

Nigel Linsan Colley

26th June 2008 


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