Ohio History Journal

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An Ohio Kitchen Inspector and the

Soviet Famine of 1921-1922: The

Russian Odyssey of Henry C. Wolfe




Persistence paid off for Henry C. Wolfe of Coshocton, Ohio, when he

sought a job as a relief worker in Russia during the famine of 1921-1922.

Wolfe eventually was to become internationally known as a writer and lec-

turer on foreign affairs; one of his claims to fame was that he predicted (in a

Harper's magazine article) the August 1939 alliance between Hitler and

Stalin. But in 1921 Wolfe was only twenty-three years old and was trying to

land his first civilian position abroad, despite possessing somewhat modest

qualifications. Five years previously he had completed his high school train-

ing at the Phillips Academy at Andover, Massachusetts, a school which was

usually referred to as Phillips-Andover to distinguish it from the Phillips

Exeter Academy at Exeter, New Hampshire. Wolfe then completed his

freshman year at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, but his education was

abruptly ended by America's entry into World War I. Although Wolfe never

returned to complete his degree, the college's trustees in 1938 awarded him a

consolation prize in the form of an honorary master's degree. After leaving

Kenyon in the spring of 1917, Wolfe spent a year and three months as a Red

Cross ambulance driver and attendant in France. In the final two months of

the war he served, as did Hemingway's hero in A Farewell to Arms, with an

American ambulance unit on the Italian front. Returning to his hometown at

the conclusion of the conflict, Wolfe found employment as a history instruc-

tor in the Coshocton public schools. Wolfe was tactful enough not to record

his views on teaching history as a career, but it is apparent that his two years

as a teacher convinced him to seek a new occupation.1 And in mid-summer

1921 his attention was drawn to a vast human tragedy which unfolded in


Wolfe first became aware of the famine in Soviet Russia from press reports

describing a mass exodus of starving refugees from the Volga. The disaster

originated in the confiscation of food by both Reds and Whites during the



Benjamin D. Rhodes is a Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.


1. Employment application of Henry C. Wolfe, American Relief Administration (ARA) file

of Henry C. Wolfe, ARA Personnel Records, Box 78, Herbert Hoover Presidential Library,

West Branch, Iowa; New York Times, November 22, 1976.