I have not participated in the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge before, but there’s no time like the present to get started, right?
The theme this week? Escape.
The Ninth Fort, just outside Kaunas, Lithuania, has a sordid history. Originally part of the city’s nineteenth-century fortifications it was used by the local government as a jail from 1924 until 1939. For the following two years during a Soviet occupation it held political prisoners, and then for the next two years during a Nazi occupation it was a concentration camp. More than 10,000 Jews were killed here (I have seen some estimates closer to 50,000). After the war it was once again used by the Soviets as a prison, until it became an office and workspace for farming organizations and finally a museum in 1959. The photo above shows a monument to those who were killed here, designed by sculptor A. Ambraziunas in 1984.
So why did I choose this photo to represent this weekly challenge? Because, amazingly, in 1944 a group of sixty-two brave prisoners managed to escape. Today, a sign inside the museum marks the door from which they began their miraculous escape– across the guarded compound, into the forest and the nearby ghetto. Visiting the Ninth Fort is an amazing experience for anyone wanting to learn more about the Holocaust while avoiding the sometimes distasteful behavior of the huge crowds at sites like Auschwitz or Dachau. I encountered few other people while visiting the Ninth Fort, allowing me to reflect more deeply on the site’s history.
You can get to the Ninth Fort by city bus from downtown Kaunas. Take bus #23 to the fort (tell the driver your destination and don’t worry if it seems like it’s taking a long time- it’s far!), cross the street and walk back in the direction you came along the narrow residential road, which will curve away from the main street. After you’ve passed a few houses look for a narrow dirt path through the trees on your left- follow the path and you’ll reach an underpass that takes you under the highway to the museum entrance.