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30 dramatic images of the 1942 Henan famine

Henan Province was hit by a terrible famine between the summer of 1942 and the spring of 1943 that led to the death of 3 million people (other sources report 1 million deaths).

Related: Episodes of cannibalism in China during the famine; The famine during the Chinese Civil War; Rare historical photographs of the 1931 China floods

Another three million people then had to move to other regions to escape hunger. Famine was caused by strong drought, the ongoing destruction of fields by swarms of locusts, the domestic demand for supplies for the troops engaged against the Japanese but also by the unreasonable demands of the government who practically took all goods of the local farmers. A poor harvest turned into a colossal tragedy.

American and Time correspondent Theodore White gave us an eyewitness account since the Nationalist government in Chongqing decided to hide it. The images were taken by the American photographer Harrison Forman who traveled throughout Henan province to witness first-hand the famine of 1942–1943 and gives his account in his diary (Harrison Forman Diary, China, December 1942 – March 1943).

There were reports of cannibalism and White said: “In the mountain districts there were uglier tales of refugees caught on lonely roads and killed for their flesh. How much of this was just a gruesome legend and how much truth we could not judge. But we heard the same tales too frequently, in too widely scattered places, to ignore the fact that in Hunan human beings were eating their own kind.”

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topic: famine,famine in history,famine in China,China famine

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3 thoughts on “30 dramatic images of the 1942 Henan famine”

  1. Those are amazing and tragic photographs reminding me that these things may again happen on a massive scale.


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