6/30/2004:  The Kaunas Ghetto and Fort IX


Kaunas Visit

The tour started out the morning with a quick tour of the Slobodka ghetto:

Kaunas Ghetto memorial    Memorial to the Jews of the Slobodka ghetto.

Slobodka Yeshiva     Slobodka Yeshiva.

Then we were given a tour of the infamous Fort IX, which sounds like an inspiration for the movie The Great Escape:

The Russians had built a series of forts around Kaunas;  the Nazis converted them into slaughterhouses.  The Nazis didn't dispose of the remains themselves, they forced a number of Jews to do it for them.   The prisoners of Fort IX  organized an incredible escape, duping their guards in the process.  I don't remember all of the details but the gist of it that the prisoners found a way to get out of their cells and planned an escape route.

Fort IX escape route image 291

The escapees could be spotted in one portion of their route, so they knitted a number of white blankets together to act as a screen -- the ground was covered in snow, and at night the blankets would not be distinguishable.

image 296 The weak point in the escape route.

64 prisoners made it out alive, but only 5 of them survived (ironically, by sneaking into the ghetto where the inhabitants could hide them).

Frescos depicting the tragedy of Jewish life in Kaunas

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Cool creepy tunnels:

tunnel 1
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image 280 View of the fort's perimeter from a fortified guard tower.

image 294 View of Kaunas from a prisoner's cell.

image 298 Entrance to Fort IX

image 300 Memorial to the victims of Fort IX, in Lithuanian, Yiddish, Hebrew, English and Russian:

"This is the place where Nazis and their assistants killed more than 30000 Jews from Lithuania and other countries"

image 297  A very large memorial.