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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

TV Show Review: The Great Famine

The Great Famine
American Experience Series

60 mins
April 11, 2011
“The little-known story of the American effort to relieve starvation in the new Soviet Russia in 1921, The Great Famine is a documentary about the worst natural disaster in Europe since the Black Plague in the Middle Ages. Five million Soviet citizens died. Half a world away, Americans responded with a massive two-year relief campaign, championed by Herbert Hoover, director of the American Relief Administration.”
It is shocking to me that something that is considered the worst natural disaster in Europe since the Black Plague could go completely under the radar for the majority of American history students. I had certainly never heard of this terrible disaster and was eager to watch the episode to learn about it. Right from the start the episode grabbed my attention – with a quote like “we are trying now to dig a grave for the deaths that will come because we don’t know if we will have the strength to later” how could it not?

It was interesting to see this portrayal of Herbert Hoover, before he became President and ended up in the middle of The Great Depression. He was a “hard headed humanitarian” and the driving force behind all of the efforts in the US to help those struck by the famine. He is potentially responsible for saving more lives than any other person in history and was seen as a hero – but these accomplishments were quickly overshadowed and forgotten about.

As hard as some of this was to watch, it was so heartbreakingly tragic to see to see these images of extremely emaciated children. There wasn’t any way that you could avoid the enormity of the situation. Two of the people providing commentary for this episode were child survivors of this famine. It was so much more poignant to hear these stories in their own words. There was also a lot of video footage used throughout this episode – they made very few endeavors into reenactments in this episode, which in this situation was a good thing.

I highly recommend this episode to everyone because I certainly think that more people should know about this episode in our not too distant past.

You can watch the trailer of the episode here:

As usual, the American Experience website has a plethora of additional content and information. If you missed the show you can catch it online later this week.

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. I recorded it and am looking forward to watching it. I read a couple historical fiction books about it and am very interested in this part of history.

  2. Teddy Rose - I didn't even know about this event before - I would be interested in checking out the HF.

  3. I learned about this in one of my upper level US history courses in college. It was definitely a terrible disaster. I'm going to have to see if I can catch an encore or see if I can catch it OnDemand. Thanks for the heads up, Heather!

  4. Michelle - I wish I had learned this in class - I ended up taking too many US history classes (because the awesome ones were offered only at the times I could NEVER take them!). I would have liked to have had a class on something I didn't already know! I know they will have it available to watch online and there should be another reshowing of it soonish.

  5. Unfortunately, I missed this. I had a meeting and got home too late. I had not heard much about this famine or the response to it.

  6. Librarypat - I was very intrigued by this one - as I knew nothing about it. It was a very informative show!


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