After exploring Kaunas for a day I was ready to get out of the city. Around Kaunas are a number of fortresses, which were built as defensive measure under the Russian empire in the late 19th century. The Ninth Fort gained notoriety under Soviet occupation as prison and later during the Nazi Germany occupation as execution place for Jews and Soviet prisoners. All in all, Ninth Fort is not a place with great karma.
The tourist information office told me that getting there was complicated and difficult, and that I should rather take a taxi. I ended up grabbing a Bolt (cheap and quick) and exited the car in the middle of nowhere. A large parking area next to the freeway behind me, a photo exhibition on the left, and a long walkway ahead. There was not much to see.
I am also not really sure what the gray blocks ahead were, because there was nothing to see. Maybe part of the monument? The information on the orientation board just said the the building was closed for renovation. Maybe aliens are supposed to land here?
Upon arriving at the top of the alien structure I could already see the Ninth Fort. It looks as if it’s partly built inside the hillside.
The first part of the exhibition focuses on the constructions of the Ninth Fort and the defensive system of all the forts for WWI. The second part showed the harsh reality of the Soviet prisoners and the many Jewish victims who arrived here. Like the Convoi 73, a deportation of 878 French Jews to Kaunas. Many of them were killed here at the Ninth Fort, others in a nearby labor camp, others again in Tallinn. In the end only 22 of Convoi 73 survived.
After spending at least three hours inside, the exhibition and the available information were excellent, you come to a monument for the many people who died here. Just look at the size of it. There are two people standing in front on the middle piece.
My worst moment came though when I read the detailed inscriptions on the inlaid tombstones on the nearby lawn.
Underneath this innocent looking lawn lie the remains of 50.000 people. About 30.000 Jews killed by the Nazis and 20.000 prisoners killed by the Soviets. The number is staggering, especially when you know that the Jews were buried first, then had to be dug up again and cremated so as not to leave any evidence. Of course more Jews were needed for this job. It’s all just mind-blowing.
Going to Ninth Fort is not an easy visit. But one that you shouldn’t miss when you are in the area. It definitely helps though when the sky is blue, it blows away the gloom. Yours, Pollybert