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"Invincible Man" - a statue at the Khatyn memorial of Yuzif Kaminsky carrying his dying son

Khatyn, Chatyń (Belarusian and Russian: Хаты́нь, pronounced [xʌˈtɨnʲ]) is a village in Belarus, in Lahojsk district, Minsk Voblast, the population of which was massacred during World War II by Nazis of the 118th Schutzmannschaft battalion, with the participation of Ukrainian and Belarusian collaborators.[1]


The massacre

The massacre occurred on March 22, 1943. German forces rushed into the village and drove the inhabitants from their houses into a shed which was then set on fire. The trapped people managed to break down the front doors, but in trying to escape were killed by German machine gun fire. 149 people, including 75 children, were killed. The village was then looted and burned to the ground.

Viktor Zhelobkovich, a seven year old boy, survived the fire in the shed under the corpse of his mother. Another boy, 12 year old Anton Baranovsky, was left for dead due to a leg wound. The only adult survivor of the Khatyn massacre, 56-year-old village smith Yuzif Kaminsky, also wounded and burnt, recovered consciousness after the Germans 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. The surviving Khatyn inhabitants were picked up by neighboring villages, including two girls, who were able to escape the burning shed and flee into the nearby woods. The village where they were given shelter was later also attacked by the Nazis, and the girls were killed.

At least 5,295 Belarusian settlements were destroyed by the Nazis and some or all their inhabitants killed. 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.[2] Altogether, 2,230,000 people were killed in Belarus during the three years of German occupation, about a quarter of the country's population.[3][4]

Commander of one of the platoons of 118th Schutzmannschaft Battalion, Ukrainian Vasyl Meleshko, was tried in a Soviet court and executed in 1975.

The Khatyn Memorial

The Eternal Flame at the Khatyn Memorial

In the Brezhnev era USSR, much attention was paid to this Nazi crime, possibly with the intention of diverting attention from the Katyn massacre of Polish officers[5] . According to Norman Davies, of Wolfson College, Oxford, the village was chosen and the memorial created by the Soviet authorities in a calculated policy of disinformation,[6] designed to create confusion with the Katyn massacre.

Khatyn became a symbol of mass killings of the civilian population during the fighting between partisans, German troops, and collaborators. Hundreds of similar settlements shared the fate of Khatyn during World War II. In 1969 it was named the national war memorial of the Byelorussian SSR. Among the best-recognized symbols of the 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. [3] There is also a statue of Yuzif Kaminsky carrying his dying son. The site also contains a wall with niches to represent the victims of all concentration camps with large niches representing concentration camps with victims of greater than 20,000 people and bells ring out every 30 seconds to commemorate the rate at which lives were lost of Belarusian people throughout the duration of the Second World War.

Among the foreign leaders who visited the Khatyn Memorial during their time in office were Richard Nixon of the USA, Fidel Castro of Cuba, Rajiv Gandhi of India, Yasser Arafat of the PLO, and Jiang Zemin of China.[7]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ (English) 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.  
  2. ^ (English) "Genocide policy". SMC "Khatyn". 2005. Retrieved 2006-08-26.  
  3. ^ a b (English) Vitali Silitski (May 2005). "Belarus: A Partisan Reality Show" (pdf). Transitions Online: 5. Retrieved 2006-08-26.  
  4. ^ (English) "Genocide policy". SMC "Khatyn". 2005. Retrieved 2006-08-26.  
  5. ^ Fischer, Benjamin B., "The Katyn Controversy: Stalin's Killing Field", Studies in Intelligence, Winter 1999–2000, last accessed on 10 December 2005
  6. ^ Norman Davies, Europe: A History, Oxford University Press, 1996, page. 1005. ISBN 0-19-513442-7
  7. ^ (Russian) "Хатынь — интернациональный символ антивоенных акций (Khatyn: international symbol of anti-war actions)". ГМК «Хатынь». 2005. Retrieved 2006-08-26.  

External links

Coordinates: 54°20′04″N 27°56′37″E / 54.33444°N 27.94361°E / 54.33444; 27.94361



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