Khatyn (Belarusian: Хаты́нь, romanizedChatyń, pronounced [xaˈtɨnʲ]; Russian: Хаты́нь, pronounced [xɐˈtɨnʲ]) was a village of 26 houses and 157 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 in retaliation for an attack on German troops by Soviet partisans.

Khatyn massacre
Part of the Eastern Front of World War II
LocationKhatyn village [Wikidata], Lahoysk District, Minsk Region, Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, Soviet Union
Coordinates54°20′06″N 27°56′42″E / 54.33500°N 27.94500°E / 54.33500; 27.94500
Date22 March 1943
WeaponsImmolation and shooting
PerpetratorsSchutzmannschaft Battalion 118 of the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police
Dirlewanger Brigade
MotiveRetaliation for Soviet partisan attack
ConvictedVasyl Meleshko
Hryhoriy Vasiura

The battalion was composed of primarily Ukrainian collaborators and assisted by the Dirlewanger Waffen-SS special battalion.[1][2][3]

Background edit

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 to as many as 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 Kozyri village, 6 km away from Khatyn, resulting in the deaths of four police officers of Schutzmannschaft Battalion 118. Among the dead was Hauptmann Hans Woellke, the battalion's commanding officer.[7]

Battalion 118 called for help from troops of the Dirlewanger Brigade, a unit mostly composed of war criminals recruited for Nazi security warfare tasks. Supervised by Hryhoriy Vasiura they together 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. Around 149 people, including 75 children under 16 years of age, were killed due to burning, shooting or smoke inhalation. The village was then looted and burned to the ground.[9]

Survivors edit

Bell tower at the Khatyn Memorial

Eight inhabitants of the village survived, of whom six witnessed the massacre – five children and an adult.

  1. Twelve-year-old Anton Iosifovich Baranovsky (1930–1969) was left for dead with wounds in both legs.[10] 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.[10]
  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.[10]
  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.[11]
  5. Sofia Antonovna Yaskevich (later Fiokhina) (1934–2020), Vladimir's sister, 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.[12]
  6. Viktor Andreevich Zhelobkovich (1934–2020), a seven-year-old boy, survived the fire in the shed under the corpse of his mother.[12] As an adult, he worked at the design office of precise engineering, and was also reported to be living in Minsk.[12]

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.[13]
  • Sofya Klimovich, a relative of Karaban, was also visiting a nearby village. After the war she worked at the Memorial for several years.[13]

Post-war trials edit

In 1946, the officer who ordered the massacre, Bruno Pavel, was prosecuted at the Riga Trial and executed. Ivan Melnichenko, the leader of the Dirlewanger unit which committed the massacre, was fatally shot by NKVD agents on 26 February 1946 while resisting arrest. Multiple collaborators who participated in the massacre were tried in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of them were executed.[14]

The commander of one of the platoons of 118th Schutzmannschaft Battalion, former Soviet junior lieutenant Vasyl Meleshko, was tried in a Soviet court and executed in 1975.

The chief of staff of 118th Schutzmannschaft Battalion, former Red Army senior lieutenant 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. Vasiura was executed in 1987.

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.

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.[15] 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.[16]

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.[17]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Zur Geschichte der Ordnungspolizei 1936–1942, Teil II, Georg Tessin, Dies Satbe und Truppeneinheiten der Ordnungspolizei, Koblenz 1957, s. 172–173
  2. ^ 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), pp. 202–203
  4. ^ "The tragedy of Khatyn – Genocide policy / Punitive Operations". Site Memorial Complex Khatyn. 2005. Archived from the original on 4 February 2012. Retrieved 1 July 2014.
  5. ^ a b Vitali Silitski (May 2005). "Belarus: A Partisan Reality Show" (PDF). Transitions Online: 5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 October 2006. Retrieved 26 August 2006.
  6. ^ "The tragedy of Khatyn - Genocide policy". SMC Khatyn. 2005. Archived from the original on 10 March 2015.
  7. ^ "The tragedy of Khatyn – Partisan attack". SMC Khatyn. 2005. Archived from the original on 11 October 2018.
  8. ^ ""Khatyn" – The tragedy of Khatyn". 26 May 2018. Archived from the original on 26 May 2018. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  9. ^ ""Khatyn" – The tragedy of Khatyn". 21 July 2018. Archived from the original on 21 July 2018. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  10. ^ a b c ""Khatyn" – The tragedy of Khatyn | Witnesses to the tragedy". 4 February 2020. Archived from the original on 4 February 2020. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  11. ^ "Правда о том, кто убивал Хатынь: палачи и подручные | UArgument". 10 February 2018. Archived from the original on 10 February 2018. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  12. ^ a b c "The tragedy of Khatyn - Witnesses". SMC Khatyn. 2005. Archived from the original on 4 February 2020.
  13. ^ a b Mikhail Shimansky (2013). "Непокоренная Хатынь [Undefeated Khatyn]". (in Belarusian). РЭСПУБЛІКА. Retrieved 1 July 2014.
  14. ^ "Special punitive team SS Dirlewanger. The fate of the punishers from the Dirlewanger team (33 photos)". Retrieved 5 October 2022.
  15. ^ Khatyn Memorial 5 July 2019 Archived 6 July 2019 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Хатынь – интернациональный символ антивоенных акций (Khatyn: international symbol of anti-war actions)". (in Russian). ГМК «Хатынь». 2005. Archived from the original on 29 April 2005. Retrieved 26 August 2006.
  17. ^ "Исторические "нестыковки" преследуют Хатынь даже спустя 70 лет после трагедии". (in Russian). Archived from the original on 24 December 2003. Retrieved 22 March 2021.

External links edit