Khatyn massacre

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The sculpture Unbowed Man by Sergei Selikhanov at the Khatyn Memorial site depicts Yuzif Kaminsky, the only adult to survive the massacre, holding his dead son Adam.
Another view of the statue.
Bell tower at the Khatyn Memorial.

Khatyn or Chatyń (Belarusian and Russian: Хаты́нь, pronounced [xɐˈtɨnʲ]) was a village of 26 houses and 156 inhabitants in Belarus, in Lahoysk Raion, Minsk Region, 50 km away from Minsk. On 22 March 1943, almost the entire population of the village was massacred by the Schutzmannschaft Battalion 118 of Ukrainische Hilfspolizei. The battalion was formed in July 1942 in Kiev and was made up mostly of Ukrainian collaborators, Red Army prisoner-of-war volunteers and deserters,[1][2][3] assisted by 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 and destroyed by the Nazis, and often all their inhabitants were killed (some amounting up to 1,500 victims) 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 2,000,000 people were killed in Belarus during the three years of Nazi occupation, almost a quarter of the region's population.[5][6]

Massacre[edit]

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 Battalion 118, which consisted mostly of Ukrainian collaborators, and Red Army prisoner-of-war volunteers and 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, 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.[8] The trapped people managed to break down the front doors, but in trying to escape, were killed by machine gun fire. 147 people, including 75 children under 16 years of age, were killed – burned, shot or suffocated in fire. The village was then looted and burned to the ground.[8]

Survivors[edit]

Eight inhabitants of the village survived, of whom six witnessed the massacre – five children and an adult. Two were still alive in 2008.

  1. Twelve-year-old Anton Iosifovich Baranovsky (1930–1969) was left for dead with wounds in both legs.[9] His injuries were treated by partisans. Five months after the opening of the Memorial, Baranovsky died in unclear circumstances.
  2. The only adult survivor of the massacre, 56-year-old village smith Yuzif Kaminsky (1887–1973), recovered consciousness with wounds and burns after the killers had left. He supposedly found his burned son, who later died in his arms. This incident was later commemorated with a statue at the Khatyn Memorial.[9]
  3. Another 12-year-old boy, Alexander Petrovich Zhelobkovich (1930–1994), escaped from the village before the soldiers were able to fully surround it. His mother woke him up and put him on a horse, on which he escaped to a nearby village. After the war, he served in the armed forces and became a reserve lieutenant colonel.[9]
  4. Vladimir Antonovich Yaskevich (1930–2008) hid in a potato pit 200 meters from his family house. Two soldiers noticed the boy, but spared him. Vladimir noted that they spoke German between themselves, not Ukrainian.[10]
  5. Vladimir's sister, Sofia Antonovna Yaskevich (later Fiokhina) (born 1934) hid in the cellar from the early morning of the massacre. As an adult she worked as a typist, and was last reported living in Minsk.[9]
  6. Viktor Andreevich Zhelobkovich (born 1936), a seven-year-old boy, survived the fire in the shed under the corpse of his mother.[9] As an adult, he worked at the design office of precise engineering, and was also reported to be living in Minsk.[9]

Two other Khatyn women survived because they were away from the village that day.

  • Tatyana Vasilyevna Karaban (1910 – c. 2000s) was visiting relatives in a neighboring village, Seredniaya.[11]
  • Sofya Klimovich, a relative of Karaban, was also visiting a nearby village. After the war she worked at the Memorial for several years.[11]

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.

The chief of staff of 118th Schutzmannschaft Battalion, Ukrainian Hryhoriy Vasiura, was tried in Minsk in 1986 and found guilty of all his crimes. He was sentenced to death by the verdict of the military tribunal of the Belorussian Military District.

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 burned together with its population.
Another view of the Cemetery of Villages.
Village names on memorial.
Children's toys placed by the site of the barn where an estimated 149 people were burned to death.

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 the 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 that was torched along with its population.

Among the foreign leaders who have visited the Khatyn Memorial during their time in office are Richard Nixon of the US, Fidel Castro of Cuba, Rajiv Gandhi of India, Yasser Arafat of the PLO, and Jiang Zemin of China.[12]

According to Norman Davies, the Khatyn massacre was deliberately exploited by the Soviet authorities to cover up the Katyn massacre, and this was a major reason for erecting the memorial—it was done in order to cause confusion with Katyn among foreign visitors.[13][14]

In 2004, the Memorial was renovated.

According to 2011 data, the Memorial was in the top ten of the most attended tourist sites in Belarus – that year it was visited by 182,000 people.[15]

Panorama of the central part of the Khatyn Memorial

See also[edit]

References[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. ^ "The tragedy of Khatyn - Genocide policy / Punitive Operations". Site Memorial Complex Khatyn. 2005. Retrieved 2014-07-01. 
  5. ^ a b Vitali Silitski (May 2005). "Belarus: A Partisan Reality Show" (PDF). Transitions Online: 5. Archived from the original (pdf) on 2006-10-13. Retrieved 2006-08-26. 
  6. ^ "The tragedy of Khatyn - Genocide policy". SMC Khatyn. 2005. 
  7. ^ "The tragedy of Khatyn - Partisan attack". SMC Khatyn. 2005. 
  8. ^ a b "The tragedy of Khatyn - The destruction of the village". SMC Khatyn. 2005. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f "The tragedy of Khatyn - Withesses". SMC Khatyn. 2005. 
  10. ^ Evgeny Gorelik (2011-05-26). ""Правда о том, кто убивал Хатынь: палачи и подручные" (The Truth about Those Who Killed in Khatyn - the Executioners and Their Helpers)". Белорусская деловая газета. Retrieved 2014-07-01. 
  11. ^ a b Mikhail Shimansky (2013). "Непокоренная Хатынь [Undefeated Khatyn]" (in Belarusian). РЭСПУБЛІКА. Retrieved 2014-07-01. 
  12. ^ "Хатынь – интернациональный символ антивоенных акций (Khatyn: international symbol of anti-war actions)". khatyn.by (in Russian). ГМК «Хатынь». 2005. Retrieved 2006-08-26. 
  13. ^ Davies, Norman (1996). Europe: A History. Oxford University Press. p. 1005. ISBN 0-19-820171-0. 
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ Aleksandr Nesterov (2013-03-22). ""Исторические "нестыковки" преследуют Хатынь даже спустя 70 лет после трагедии" (Historical Mismatches Haunt Khatyn Even 70 Years After Tragedy)". interfax.by. Retrieved 2014-07-01. 

External links[edit]

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