Khatyn massacre

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Sculpture «Unboved man» in Khatyn Memorial. The prototype for the sculpture was the only survived in the massacre man, Yuzif Kaminsky, holding his dead son Adam.

Khatyn, Chatyń (Belarusian and Russian: Хаты́нь, pronounced [xɐˈtɨnʲ]) was a village in Belarus, in Lahoysk Raion, Minsk Region. On March 22, 1943, the entire population of the village was massacred by the 118th Schutzmannschaft Nazi battalion. The battalion was formed in July 1942 in Kiev and was made up mostly of Ukrainian nationalists from Western Ukraine and collaborators, Soviet army prisoners-of-war/deserters[1][2][3] and the Dirlewanger Waffen-SS special battalion.

The massacre was not an unusual incident in Belarus during World War II. At least 5,295 Belarusian settlements were burned, destroyed by the Nazis and some or all their inhabitants were killed as a punishment for collaboration with partisans. In the Vitebsk region 243 villages were burned down twice, 83 villages three times, and 22 villages were burned down four or more times. In the Minsk region 92 villages were burned down twice, 40 villages three times, nine villages four times, and six villages five or more times.[4] Altogether, over two million people were killed in Belarus during the three years of Nazi occupation, almost a quarter of the country's population.[5][6]


On 22 March 1943, a German convoy was attacked by Soviet partisans near Koziri village just 6 km away from Khatyn, resulting in the deaths of four police officers of Schutzmannschaft Batallion 118, which consisted mostly of Ukrainian collaborators, prisoners of war and Soviet army deserters.[1][2] Among the dead was Hauptmann Hans Woellke, the battalion's commanding officer.[7] Woellke was an Olympic champion in Berlin in 1936 and an acquaintance of Adolf Hitler.

Troops from the Dirlewanger Brigade,[7] a unit mostly composed of criminals recruited for anti-partisan duties, entered the village and drove the inhabitants from their houses and into a shed, which was then covered with straw and set on fire. The trapped people managed to break down the front doors, but in trying to escape, were killed by machine gun fire. 149 people, including 75 children, were killed. The village was then looted and burned to the ground.[8]

Viktor Zhelobkovich, a seven-year-old boy, survived the fire in the shed under the corpse of his mother.[8] Another boy, 12-year-old Anton Baranovsky, was left for dead due to a leg wound.[8] The only adult survivor of the Khatyn massacre, 56-year-old village smith Yuzif Kaminsky, also wounded and burnt, recovered consciousness after the executioners had left. He supposedly found his burned son who later died in his arms. This incident was later artistically honored in the form of a statue at the Khatyn Memorial.[8]

Post-war trials[edit]

The commander of one of the platoons of 118th Schutzmannschaft Battalion, Ukrainian Vasyl Meleshko, was tried in a Soviet court and executed in 1975. Chief of Staff of 118th Schutzmannschaft Battalion, Ukrainian Grigory Vassiura, was tried in Minsk in 1986, was found guilty of all his crimes and by the verdict of the military tribunal of the Belorussian military district was sentenced to death.

The case and the trial of the main executioner of Khatyn was not given much publicity in the media; the leaders of the Soviet republics worried about the inviolability of unity between the Belarusian and Ukrainian peoples.

Khatyn Memorial[edit]

«Cemetery of villages» with 185 tombs. Each tomb symbolizes a particular village in Belarus which was fired together with its population.

Khatyn became a symbol of mass killings of the civilian population during the fighting between partisans, German troops, and collaborators. In 1969 it was named the national war memorial of the Byelorussian SSR. Among the best-recognized symbols of the memorial complex is a monument with three birch trees, with an eternal flame instead of a fourth tree, a tribute to the one in every four Belarusians who died in the war.[5] There is also a statue of Yuzif Kaminsky carrying his dying son, and a wall with niches to represent the victims of all concentration camps, with large niches representing those with more than 20,000 victims. Bells ring every 30 seconds to commemorate the rate at which Belarusian lives were lost throughout the duration of the Second World War.

Part of the memorial is a «Cemetery of villages» with 185 tombs. Each tomb symbolizes a particular village in Belarus which was fired together with its population.

Among the foreign leaders who have visited the Khatyn Memorial during their time in office are Richard Nixon of the USA, Fidel Castro of Cuba, Rajiv Gandhi of India, Yasser Arafat of the PLO, and Jiang Zemin of China.[9]

Panorama of the central part of the Khatyn Memorial


Hatyn 1.JPG
Hatyn 2.JPG Hatyn 12.JPG
Khatyn - Villages.jpg Khatyn - Wall.jpg Khatyn - Eternal Flame.jpg

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Zur Geschichte der Ordnungspolizei 1936—1942, Teil II, Georg Tessin, Dies Satbe und Truppeneinheiten der Ordnungspolizei, Koblenz 1957, s.172-173
  2. ^ a b Leonid D. Grenkevich; David M. Glantz (1999). The Soviet Partisan Movement, 1941-1944: A Critical Historiographical Analysis. London: Routledge. pp. 133–134. ISBN 0-7146-4874-4. 
  3. ^ Per A. Rudling, "Terror and Local Collaboration in Occupied Belorussia: The Case of Schutzmannschaft Battalion 118. Part One: Background", Historical Yearbook of the Nicolae Iorga History Institute (Bucharest) 8 (2011), p.202-203
  4. ^ "Genocide policy". SMC "Khatyn". 2005. Retrieved 2006-08-26. 
  5. ^ a b Vitali Silitski (May 2005). "Belarus: A Partisan Reality Show" (pdf). Transitions Online: 5. Retrieved 2006-08-26. 
  6. ^ "Genocide policy". SMC "Khatyn". 2005. Retrieved 2006-08-26. 
  7. ^ a b Genocide Policy,
  8. ^ a b c d The tragedy of Khatyn,
  9. ^ (Russian) "Хатынь — интернациональный символ антивоенных акций (Khatyn: international symbol of anti-war actions)". ГМК «Хатынь». 2005. Retrieved 2006-08-26. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°20′10.16″N 27°56′26.71″E / 54.3361556°N 27.9407528°E / 54.3361556; 27.9407528