In the dark and cold 1882, the Russian Empire started one of the most important projects at that time - the construction of the fortress around the city of Kaunas. The tension of the upcoming global war was rising; thus, the Russian Empire wanted to increase its defensive systems. The building of the Ninth Fort, the latest fort, started in 1903 and was finished on the eve of World War I. Nowadays, the Ninth Fort is opened for visitors, and there is a museum established there, with the purpose of telling the tragic history of this fort. The other eight forts of Kaunas Fortress are not in use nowadays, some of them are fully covered by water.
The construction of the Ninth Fort during the 20th century was significantly expensive - the cost of this fort is calculated around 850 000 rubles. At that time, it was a significant amount of money. After WWI, when Lithuania gained independence, from 1924, the Ninth Fort served as a Kaunas city prison. When the last fort was constructed, it was considered an innovative solution as its all rooms were made of concrete with the thickness of the ceiling reaching 1.5-2 m. Also, the fort had secure hidden tunnels that connected it to other forts and served for evacuation purposes.
After the second Soviet occupation, from 1940, the sad and bloody history of the Ninth Fort begins. During the Soviet Occupation, the fort was used as a transfer point for the NKVD prisoners (mainly former independent Lithuanian politicians) to the Gulag forced labor camps established primarily in Siberia. When the Germans took power in Lithuania, the Ninth Fort served as a place for massive Jewish deaths. The Ninth Fort was the place of death for more than a half million Jewish people. Probably the happiest thing in this forth happened on the eve of 1944. In that time, the fort was occupied by Nazis, however, the 64 Jews managed to escape the prison successfully. I think it was the only light of hope in this dark and cold place. The last doors to the freedom of prisoners are marked in the Ninth Fort museum nowadays.
The museum in this fort was established in 1958, when Soviets still were in Lithuania. Therefore, the exhibition showed the collections of historical artifacts related to Nazis genocide. The cruel history of Soviet murders was left behind. However, the exhibition of the Ninth Forth Museum nowadays tells the tragic history of Nazis genocide and the Soviet atrocities together. The upper floors and the cells are opened for visitors. Also, it is possible to visit the tunnels of the fort, with the museum guide's supervision. The memorial monument for all victims of Jewish genocide was opened in 1984.
The Ninth Fort of Kaunas Fortress holds the tragic history of the Nazis and Soviet atrocities. Historical remains and horrific fort tunnels are the best places to experience the aura of the fort ancient periods and to gain knowledge about Lithuanian history.
Cover picture © Credits to Wikimedia Commons/Andrius Vanagas
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