The Khatyn Memorial Complex is built on the former site of Khatyn village, and represents the many hundreds of homesteads destroyed in the Khatyn and similar massacres during World War II.
In January 1966, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Belarus built the memorial complex in memory of the hundreds of Belorussian villages destroyed by Nazis during this period, making it the most significant war memorial in Belarus.
Sadly, the Khatyn massacre was not an unusual incident in Belarus during the second World War. At least 5,295 Belarusian settlements were burned, destroyed by the Nazis and some or all their inhabitants were killed 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. Altogether, over two million people were killed in Belarus during the three years of Nazi occupation, almost a quarter of the country’s population.
In memory of lives lost, each individual village destroyed is represented and those that have been since repopulated are honored by their names in tree sculptures, representing new life and survival. Bells ring every 30 seconds to commemorate the rate at which Belarusian lives were lost throughout the duration of the war. Possibly the most affecting piece in the complex is the statue of Yuzif Kaminsky, the only adult survivor of the Khatyn massacre. The 56-year-old was wounded, burnt, and left for dead during the killings, but recovered consciousness after the executioners had left. The statue shows him holding the body of his young son in his arms.