Katyn vs 'Khatyn': Another Soviet Hoax

By Louis FitzGibbon

History, even current history, is full of lies. But largely because these falsehoods appear in printed form they are believed by many many people, and it is for this reason that the Institute for Historical Review is so vital. One such hoax is that of Khatyn -- as opposed to Katyn.

On July 3, 1974, the British newspaper Daily Telegraph published the following article:

CONFUSION ON KHATYN AND KATYN

President Nixon's visit to the memorial in the Byelorussian village of Khatyn has caused a mistaken impression that Russia has erected a memorial to the victims of the wartime massacre of Polish officers in the Katyn forest. In fact, Khatyn and Katyn are two entirely different places; Khatyn, in which the 'kh' is pronounced like the English 'h' is a small village some 30 miles to the north-east of Minsk, the capital of Byelorussia.

Katyn, which is pronounced as written, is a town about 15 miles west of Smolensk, a provincial city in Russia proper. Khatyn is about 160 miles west of Katyn.

When Stalin and Hitler divided up Poland at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, some 240,000 Polish officers and men fell into Russian hands. After Hitler's invasion of Russia in June 1941, 15,000 were found to be missing and the Russians denied all knowledge of them.

Katyn fell into German hands in the late summer of 1941 and at the beginning of 1943 the German army discovered a mass grave of 4,443 Polish officers and men.

When the Polish Government-in-exile appealed for an international tribunal to determine how the Poles died Stalin broke off relations. After re-taking Katyn the Russians set up their own inquiry and said the Poles had been executed by the Germans.

Later researches by Polish and independent authorities in the west, as well as wartime Foreign Office documents, leave no doubt that the Poles were executed by the Soviet secret police, the NKVD.

The Russians have tried to erase Katyn from maps and history books. The reference to it in the 1953 edition of the Soviet Encyclopedia was dropped in the 1973 edition. No visitors are allowed to the area and no memorial has been erected.

It was not until 1969 that the Russians announced the unveiling of a "memorial complex" on the site of the village of Khatyn. It was one of 9,200 Byelorussian villages destroyed by the Germans, and one of 136 of which all the inhabitants were killed.

The Russians appear to have chosen Khatyn because of the similarity of its name to Katyn. They hoped in this way to obscure the fact they have erected no memorial to the victims of Katyn, which was no less a crime than the one committed at Khatyn.

Several things about this are interesting to note: President Nixon was taken by the Soviets to Khatyn at the very time the Katyn Memorial Fund was fighting the Church of England for permission to erect the Katyn Memorial in London. The President's visit received wide publicity, the object so obviously being to occlude the issue and cause people to wonder, perhaps, why there was so much fuss in Britain to erect a memorial to the victims of Katyn when "one already existed in Russia."

A look at Soviet maps is also revealing:

1954 - A map in the Minsk region in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia does not show Khatyn at all.
1956 - A map of the Smolensk region in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia shows Katyn.
1969 - A large atlas of the USSR shows neither Khatyn nor Katyn.
1971 - A map of the Minsk region in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia shows Khatyn but not Katyn.

Further reflection shows that in 1954, that is to say after the findings of the U.S. select committee (of 1952) had been made known, there is no sign of Khatyn, while even in 1956 Khatyn is not shown. By 1969 neither place finds any reference in the atlas, whereas by 1974 Katyn has been erased and Khatyn makes an appearance. It can therefore be supposed that whereas for two decades the Soviets overlooked Katyn, they have since "corrected" this by producing Khatyn and obliterating Katyn. It should be noted that in cyrillic script "K" is written in ordinary script as "K," while "X" is the symbol of "kh" as we in the west read it.

It can only be that this extraordinary sleight-of-hand is a device to remove the real Katyn and substitute Khatyn in an attempt, albeit clumsy, yet further to distract and confuse the world as to the whereabouts of massive crimes committed by the Soviets and substitute another alleged crime to Nazi Germany.

Visitors to Russia are taken by the thousands to look at the "memorial complex" at Khatyn. There they can procure a well-produced booklet in six languages; the English version opens with these words: "It is the only one in the world, this mournful mound of black marble. And fire, crimson tongues of flames, is burning at the place where one more birch tree could grow, cheerfully rustling ... and may there never be more such graveyards on earth!"

These pious words compare strangely with the current use of napalm and poison gas against simple Muslim tribesmen in Afghanistan!

In short, Khatyn is just an invention of the Soviets -- like "d├ętente" which fools so many people, but in which they wish to believe, for they fear the truth.

It may be appropriate here to refer to one of the Hadith (Sayings of the Prophet Mohamed) collected by Imam anNawawi (1233 to 1277) in which it is related: "Whosoever of you sees evil action, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, with his heart -- and that is the weakest of faith."


From The Journal of Historical Review, Fall 1980 (Vol. 1, No. 3), pages 230-233.

About the Author

Louis FitzGibbon (1925 - 2003), a British scholar and humanitarian, was active for years in publicizing the suppressed truth about the 1940 killing of thousands of captured Polish officers by the Soviet secret police. Although the facts about the massacre are now well established, during the 1970s his efforts on behalf of justice and historical truth were considered controversial because many people still endorsed the World War II claim by the Allied powers that the gruesome wartime killings had been carried out by German authorities.

FitzGibbon was with the British navy from 1942 to 1954, when he retired with the rank of Lieutenant. He later studied law, ran his own business, and for a time served as personal assistant to a Member of Parliament. For some years he was an executive with a commercial company in London. He also served as the director of a trade association, and of two national charities. From 1971 until 1977 he was Secretary of the Katyn Memorial Fund. He also served as chairman of the Katyn Memorial Committee in London. He was the author of Katyn: A Crime Without Parallel, and several other books.