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, 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 nationalist collaborators from Western Ukraine, Hiwis 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 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. Khatyn became a symbol of all those villages. 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. Altogether, over 2,000,000 people were killed in Belarus during the three years of Nazi occupation, almost a quarter of the country's population.
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. Among the dead was Hauptmann Hans Woellke, the battalion's commanding officer. 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. 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.
Only eight inhabitants of the village survived, from whom six were recognized as witnesses to the tragedy — five children and a single adult. By 2008, only two of them were still alive to tell the story.
- Twelve-year-old Anton Iosifovich Baranovsky (1930 — 1969), was left for dead due to wounds in both legs. His injuries were treated by partisans. Five months after the opening of the Memorial, Anton died in unclear circumstances.
- The only adult survivor of the Khatyn massacre, 56-year-old village smith Yuzif Kaminsky (1887 — 1973), 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.
- Another boy, Alexander Petrovich Zhelobkovich (1930 — 1994), who was 12 years old at the time, also survived. When the Nazi soldiers almost surrounded the village, 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 later became a reserve lieutenant colonel.
- Vladimir Antonovich Yaskevich (1930 — 2008) managed to survive by hiding in a potato pit 200 meters from his family house. Two Nazi soldiers noticed the boy, yet they spared him. Vladimir noted that they spoke German between themselves, not Ukrainian.
- Early that morning, Vladimir's sister, Sofia Antonovna Yaskevich (later Fiokhina) (b. 1934) hid in the cellar during the tragedy. As an adult she worked as a typist, and now lives in Minsk.
- Viktor Andreevich Zhelobkovich (b. 1934), a seven-year-old boy, survived the fire in the shed under the corpse of his mother. As an adult, he worked at the design office of precise engineering, and now lives in Minsk.
Two other Khatyn women survived because they were away from the village that day.
- Tatyana Vasilyevna Karaban (1910 — 200?) was visiting relatives in a neighboring village, Seredniaya.
- Sofya Klimovich, a relative of Tatyana Karaban, was also visiting a nearby village. After the war she worked at the Memorial for several years.
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 Grigory Vassiura, 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 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. 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 fired along 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.
The Khatyn massacre was deliberately exploited to cover up the Katyn massacre by the Soviet authorities; according to Norman Davies, this was a major reason for erecting the memorial--it was done in order to cause confusion with Katyn among foreign visitors.
In 2004, the Memorial was renovated.
According to 2011 data, the Memorial was in the top ten of the most attended touristic sites in Belarus — that year it was visited by 182,000 people.
- Lidice and Ležáky
- List of massacres in Belarus
- Occupation of Belarus by Nazi Germany
- Vladimir Katriuk
- Zur Geschichte der Ordnungspolizei 1936—1942, Teil II, Georg Tessin, Dies Satbe und Truppeneinheiten der Ordnungspolizei, Koblenz 1957, s.172-173
- 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.
- 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
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- Vitali Silitski (May 2005). "Belarus: A Partisan Reality Show" (pdf). Transitions Online: 5. Retrieved 2006-08-26.
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- Genocide Policy, khatyn.by
- The tragedy of Khatyn, khatyn.by
- 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.
- Mikhail Shimansky (2013-03-22). ""Непокоренная Хатынь" (Undefeated Khatyn)". Belorussian newspaper РЭСПУБЛIКА. Retrieved 2014-07-01.
- "Хатынь — интернациональный символ антивоенных акций (Khatyn: international symbol of anti-war actions)". khatyn.by (in Russian). ГМК «Хатынь». 2005. Retrieved 2006-08-26.
- Davies, Norman (1996). Europe: A History. Oxford University Press. p. 1005. ISBN 0-19-820171-0.
- 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.
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