Khatyn – A deadly response (Belarus)

If you go to Minsk then a visit to Khatyn is a must. Unfortunately it’s not situated in a very convenient location and is not well served by public transport, so unless you have your own transport your best option is going to be a guided tour. I lucked out with our guide Andrei and joined Bill and Bob for my half morning tour to the memorial.

the bell which chimes for the victims at Khatyn

Short history of Khatyn

Sadly what happened at Khatyn was not an isolated incident during world war two in Belarus so this is how the events unfolded. On the 22nd March, just 6 kms away in the village of Koziri a German convoy was attacked by partisans. Among those killed was the battalions commanding officer Hauptmann Hans Woelke. In retaliation the deadly response was swift. On the same day troops composed mainly of criminal elements from the Dirlewanger Brigade entered the village of Khatyn. The village which had a population of 156 inhabitants in 26 dwellings were all herded into a shed which was covered with straw and set alight. Those that tried to escape after breaking down the door were killed by machine gun fire. Not content with that the village was then looted and burnt to the ground.

There were 8 survivors. One of them was Yuzif Kaminsky who recovered consciousness and then found his son who died in his arms. This is depicted in the poignant statue at the entrance.

Sadly this was not the only incident of its kind in Belarus. By the end of the war 2,000,000 people, one quarter of the population had been killed during the 3 years of the Nazi occupation