Memorial “Khatyn” is a tribute to the nearly 3 million Belarusians who perished during the Great Patriotic War. It is located 54 km northeast of Minsk in the Logoisk district, Minsk region.
Until one fateful day in March 1943, Khatyn was a normal, peaceful Belarusian village of 26 households. On the morning of March 22, 1943 guerrillas fired at a German convoy from 6km away.
Hans Otto Woellke, a German officer, was killed in a shootout (he was an Olympic champion in 1936 in shot put and a favorite of Hitler). Soon after that, chasteners surrounded Khatyn. They were herded into a barn – old people, women, and children, locked up and burned. The fire killed 149 people including 75 children. From the flaming building, only one person managed to escape alive, 56-year-old Joseph Kaminsky. He tried to save his wounded son, but couldn’t. The history of Khatyn is not unique. During the Second World War, people were burned alive in 628 Belarusian villages. 186 of them have not been recovered. Khatyn became a symbol of the tragedy of the Belarusian people. In 1969, in memory of all those killed on the spot, the Belarusians’ former village was opened on Memorial. Memorial complex “Khatyn” – a tragic reminder of the horrors of war. This is one of the most revered places in Belarus.
The memorial replicates the layout of the deceased village. In the center of the complex is 6-foot bronze sculpture of “Unsubdued.” The image of a man with a dead boy in his arms was created in memory of Joseph Kaminski and his son. Black-roof slab marks the spot on the barn for the burned people of Khatyn. Near their mass grave, there is a symbolic wreath with words of memory. At the site of each of the 26 burned homes – there is a monument-frame within the obelisk in the form of the chimney with a bell. The bells ring every hour. At each obelisk – a board with names of residents of the burned houses. Beyond the “houses” is situated memorial – Cemetery of Belarusian villages. Near the cemetery is The Wall of Sorrows of reinforced concrete block with niches in which there is a memorial plate with the name 66 of the largest sites of death camps and mass mortality. The memorial area, which grows in the center of three birch trees, symbolizing life, and in place of the fourth is the eternal flame, which is a symbol of those killed in the war years. Near the Tree of Life is a list of 433 villages burned by invaders and restored after the war.