Sunday, March 11, 2007
The Ninth Fort
Last Friday, our team went to the Ninth Fort which is an old fort in Kaunas that was used by the Russians and Nazis when they occupied Lithuania. It was a sober day as we toured this historic place where so much pain has taken place. The fort was built in 1902 and underwent construction and improvements till the beginning of WWI. After that it was used as a prison for Kaunas. Then during the first Russian occupation in 1940-41 the fort served as a prison for political prisoners of the Soviet Union. It was during this time that the Soviets used such rooms in the fort like "the concrete cell." In this tiny room we are standing in they would force in 10-18 people for 3 hours. They told us that many of the prisoners would faint due to a lack of oxygen.
The Soviets also used other chambers like "the wet cell" seen below where their was naturally a lot of water that slowly seeped in and dripped to the standing water on the floor of the cell. If the cold and dampness weren't enough, the constant dripping in complete blackness caused the prisoner to go crazy after days. The only thing they they had to keep them out of the water was the wooden bed in the background.
Lastly, was the "health resort cell" which was a closet under a metal stairway in the main corridor. It didn't look to bad until you factor in all the prisoners who had to wear wooden shoes. They said the noise was deafening for prisoners locked in their.
The Fort was then taken over by the Nazi's during WWII and used as a concentration camp. If you thought the Soviets were a tough oppressors, well lets just say they were gentle compared to the tyranny of the Nazi subjugation.
As our tour guide said, "These torture cells were only used during Soviet times because the Nazi's just killed everyone." Under their short occupation of three years in Kaunas they reduced the Jewish population in this city from 37000 to 2500. In fact the Lithuanian people cheered for their former oppressor as the Soviet troops pushed back the German's and took over their country again.
In all a horrifying 30,000 Jews and 20,000 other war prisoners were murdered here at the 9th fort. Their bones are still buried in the mass grave just outside the fort wall where they were executed. The Soviets built the huge monument seen below. It stands as a testament marking the execution and grave site. It is rightly an image of people writhing in pain.
Like I said it was a sobering day as we think of all that the Jews, the Lithuanian nation, and many different peoples of this world have gone through. It's tough to see the ugly side of humanity that kills and destroys God's creation. I know it breaks His heart so much more than it did mine that day.