Kaunas Fortress
Kaunas Fortress is the remains of a fortress complex in Kaunas
Kaunas is the second-largest city in Lithuania and has historically been a leading centre of Lithuanian economic, academic, and cultural life. Kaunas was the biggest city and the center of a powiat in Trakai Voivodeship of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania since 1413. During Russian Empire occupation...

, Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

. It was constructed and renovated between 1882 and 1915 to protect the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

's western borders, and was designated a "first-class" fortress in 1887. During World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, the complex was the largest defensive structure in the entire state, occupying 65 square kilometre.

The fortress was battle-tested in 1915 when Germany attacked the Russian Empire, and withstood eleven days of assault before capture. After World War I, the fortress' military importance declined as advances in weaponry rendered it increasingly obsolete. It was used by various civil institutions and as a garrison
Garrison is the collective term for a body of troops stationed in a particular location, originally to guard it, but now often simply using it as a home base....


During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, parts of the fortress complex were used by the governments of Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 for detention, interrogation, and execution. About 50,000 people were executed there, including more than 30,000 victims of the Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

. Some sections have since been restored; the Ninth Fort
Ninth Fort
The Ninth Fort is a stronghold in the northern part of Šilainiai elderate, Kaunas, Lithuania. It is a part of the Kaunas Fortress, which was constructed in the late 19th century. During the occupation of Kaunas and the rest of Lithuania by the Soviet Union, the fort was used as a prison and...

 houses a museum and memorial devoted to the victims of wartime mass executions. The complex is the most complete remaining example of a Russian Empire fortress.


The city of Kaunas is located at the confluence
Confluence, in geography, describes the meeting of two or more bodies of water.Confluence may also refer to:* Confluence , a property of term rewriting systems...

 of two rivers, the Neman
Neman River
Neman or Niemen or Nemunas, is a major Eastern European river rising in Belarus and flowing through Lithuania before draining into the Curonian Lagoon and then into the Baltic Sea at Klaipėda. It is the northern border between Lithuania and Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast in its lower reaches...

 and Neris
Neris is a river rising in Belarus, flowing through Vilnius and becoming a tributary of the Neman River at Kaunas...

, which link Lithuania's interior and its capital, Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

, to the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

. The Baltic peoples had created significant domains by the 1st century, and came into conflict with the Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

ns and the Slavs; the Teutonic Order began targeting Lithuanian lands at the beginning of the 13th century. Since Lithuania was heavily wooded
Geography of Lithuania
The largest and most populous of the Baltic states, Lithuania has of sandy coastline which faces the open Baltic Sea, between Latvia and Russia. Lithuania's major warm-water port of Klaipėda lies at the narrow mouth of Curonian Lagoon, a shallow lagoon extending south to Kaliningrad and separated...

 and its lands were often impassable, its interior was most approachable along its rivers when frozen and during the short dry harvest season in late summer. In response to this vulnerability, defensive structures, including a brick castle
Kaunas Castle
Kaunas Castle is located in Kaunas, Lithuania. Archeological evidence suggests that it was originally built during the mid-14th century, in the Gothic style. Its site is strategic – a rise on the banks of the Nemunas River near its confluence with the Neris River...

 in Kaunas, were in place at various points on the Nemunas River by the 14th century. The city was first mentioned in written sources in 1361; it received Magdeburg rights
Magdeburg rights
Magdeburg Rights or Magdeburg Law were a set of German town laws regulating the degree of internal autonomy within cities and villages granted by a local ruler. Modelled and named after the laws of the German city of Magdeburg and developed during many centuries of the Holy Roman Empire, it was...

, regulating its autonomy and establishing trade protocols, from Vytautas the Great
Vytautas the Great
Vytautas ; styled "the Great" from the 15th century onwards; c. 1350 October 27, 1430) was one of the most famous rulers of medieval Lithuania. Vytautas was the ruler of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania which chiefly encompassed the Lithuanians and Ruthenians...

 in 1408. An outpost of the Hanseatic League
Hanseatic League
The Hanseatic League was an economic alliance of trading cities and their merchant guilds that dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe...

 was created there in 1441. By the end of the 16th century Kaunas had become a major regional trade center, but plagues, fires, and wars adversely affected the country and city during the 17th and 18th centuries. Following the partitions
Partitions of Poland
The Partitions of Poland or Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland for 123 years...

 of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth at the end of the 18th century, Lithuania was incorporated into the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

. Two major 19th-century projects contributed to the city's revival. The Augustów Canal
Augustów Canal
The Augustów Canal is a cross-border canal built in the 19th century in the present-day Podlaskie Voivodeship of northeastern Poland and the Hrodna Voblast of north-western Belarus...

, completed in 1832, linked the Neman to the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

, and a rail line linking Saint Petersburg, Warsaw, and Germany
Warsaw – Saint Petersburg Railway
The Saint Petersburg – Warsaw Railway, Russian "Санкт-Петербурго-Варшавская железная дорога" is a long railway, built in the 19th century by the Russian Empire to connect Russia with Central Europe. At the time the entire railway was within Russia, as Warsaw was under a Russian partition of Poland...

 via Kaunas was completed in 1862; it was part of a limited network of western Russian railways.

Russia's western borders needed support, and fortresses existed or were being built in Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

, Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

, and Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

. The concept of building a fortress in Lithuania was discussed without result in 1796, but became a critical concern after the French invasion of Russia in 1812 led by Napoleon
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

. The Grande Armée managed to cross the Nemunas near Kaunas on its drive towards Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 without major difficulties. An increasingly unified Germany troubled the Empire during the second half of the century. A fortress in Kaunas would present an obstacle to attacks from the west, preventing further incursions towards Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

 and Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

. In order to control the region, attackers would need to first neutralize Kaunas. Facing this possibility and evaluating the natural advantages of the city, Russian officials decided to construct a fortress there. After several delays, on July 7, 1879 Tsar
Tsar is a title used to designate certain European Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism...

 Alexander II
Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II , also known as Alexander the Liberator was the Emperor of the Russian Empire from 3 March 1855 until his assassination in 1881...

 issued an edict ordering its construction.


Construction of the
Kaunas Fortress
Batteries Forts
Start of construction 1882 1883 1883 1884 1884 1883 1884 1883 1883 1883 1883 1883 1883 1883 1883 1884 1890 1903
End of construction 1889 1888 1888 1888 1888 1888 1888 1888 1888 1889 1888 1889 1888 1889 1889 1889 ~1907 1911 name=Orlov52>

The first design was overseen by Generals Nikolay Obruchev, Konstantin Zverev, and Ivan Volberg. As originally planned, the fortress encompassed a huge site, consisting of seven forts and nine defensive batteries arranged in concentric
Concentric objects share the same center, axis or origin with one inside the other. Circles, tubes, cylindrical shafts, disks, and spheres may be concentric to one another...

 loops. The plan included support buildings and infrastructures, such as barracks, new roads, and an ammunition depot. Construction began in 1882; about 4,000 workers were mustered for the project. The principal structures were concentrated in Freda, Panemunė, Aleksotas
Aleksotas is an elderate in the southern section of the city of Kaunas, Lithuania, bordering the left bank of the Neman River . Its population in 2006 was 21,694....

, and the new section of the city. The project significantly affected the daily life of Kaunas residents, and there were plans to detach the fortress into an independent administrative unit governed by a military board; its commandant wrote that "There is no city of Kaunas, there is only the Fortress of Kaunas."

The first forts were built using bricks reinforced with thick ramparts of earth, which were incorporated into the surrounding relief, making them harder to breach. They were symmetrical
Symmetry generally conveys two primary meanings. The first is an imprecise sense of harmonious or aesthetically pleasing proportionality and balance; such that it reflects beauty or perfection...

, usually having five faces, with positions for infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 and artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

. These forts were built according to the standard Russian brick fort design of the time. Therefore, the first seven forts were very similar; they differed only in the layout of their interiors, their integration into the surrounding relief, and in some construction details. They would also be renovated in slightly different ways. Batteries were built between adjacent forts; these were fortifications containing various types of artillery, located along the fortress' outer lines and usually erected on the hills. The first construction phase was completed in 1887. The fortress was designated first-class in that year, marking its importance and defensive capabilities, and Otto Klem was named its first commandant. At the same time, administrative rules were established to manage the fortress' impact on the city and its surrounding areas; the height of the fortress' civil buildings was restricted.
During 1890 work began on an eighth fort, known as Linkuva; new construction techniques were introduced, particularly reinforced concrete
Reinforced concrete
Reinforced concrete is concrete in which reinforcement bars , reinforcement grids, plates or fibers have been incorporated to strengthen the concrete in tension. It was invented by French gardener Joseph Monier in 1849 and patented in 1867. The term Ferro Concrete refers only to concrete that is...

. The Linkuva fort became the most modern entrenchment, equipped with electricity, sewerage, and casemate
A casemate, sometimes rendered casement, is a fortified gun emplacement or armored structure from which guns are fired. originally a vaulted chamber in a fortress.-Origin of the term:...

s for a garrison of 1,000 personnel. At the same time, massive groundworks were laid along with additional defensive structures, effecting the complete enclosure of the city center between the Rivers Nemunas and Neris
Neris is a river rising in Belarus, flowing through Vilnius and becoming a tributary of the Neman River at Kaunas...

. By 1890, seven forts had been completed, supporting roads had been constructed, and a railroad bridge over the Nemunas had been adapted for military transport. By now, expenditures on the fortress had amounted to over nine million ruble
The ruble or rouble is a unit of currency. Currently, the currency units of Belarus, Russia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria, and, in the past, the currency units of several other countries, notably countries influenced by Russia and the Soviet Union, are named rubles, though they all are...

s. The first bricks for a church that would serve the garrison were laid in 1891; it was completed in 1893. The following year construction began on a dedicated narrow gauge railway.

The Ninth Fort, begun in 1903, was the first of its kind in the Empire. The structure was a trapezoid
In Euclidean geometry, a convex quadrilateral with one pair of parallel sides is referred to as a trapezoid in American English and as a trapezium in English outside North America. A trapezoid with vertices ABCD is denoted...

, encompassing one infantry rampart, and was equipped with two armored watchtowers, electricity, and ventilation. The walls of its cannon casemates were covered with cork to reduce firing noise. The cost of this single fort was 850,000 rubles.
The complex of forts and defensive structures was divided into four sectors. The first followed the left bank of the Nemunas to its confluence with the Jiesia River and included the three earliest forts. The second sector extended from the Jiesia to Pažaislis monastery
Pažaislis Monastery
Pažaislis monastery and church form the largest monastery complex in Lithuania, and the most magnificent example of Italian baroque architecture in the country...

 and included two forts. The third extended from the right to the left bank of the Nemunas; this sector also contained two forts. The fourth and last sector stretched from the right bank of the Neris to the left bank of the Nemunas, comprising two forts, including the newest – the Ninth Fort.

As new building and weapons technologies developed, the fortress was repeatedly renovated in order to maintain its military effectiveness. In 1912 an expansion and reconstruction initiative was launched. This project called for twelve new forts along with batteries, support buildings, and defensive structures. Its completion was scheduled for 1917. The older forts were to be completely encircled by the new construction, which was meant to employ the newest military technologies. During the early realization of the plan, new defensive entrenchments were built and the old forts were strengthened with concrete. However, when action began on the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War I)
The Eastern Front was a theatre of war during World War I in Central and, primarily, Eastern Europe. The term is in contrast to the Western Front. Despite the geographical separation, the events in the two theatres strongly influenced each other...

 during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, work on the fortress was halted. In 1915 only one fort, the Ninth, conformed with the new technological criteria, while the Tenth Fort was only partially built. The complex then covered about 65 square kilometre and contained a 30 km (18.6 mi) internal railway, power plant, water supply system, mill, bakery, brewery, food bank, and telegraph. Despite the fact that the fortress' renovations and new construction had not been finished, it presented a formidable challenge to its attackers.

World War I

In 1915, Germany
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 and the Central Powers
Central Powers
The Central Powers were one of the two warring factions in World War I , composed of the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria...

 began an offensive against Russia and advanced towards Lithuania and Kaunas. The German army reached Kaunas Fortress in July 1915. At that time, about 90,000 soldiers, commanded by Vladimir Grigoriev , manned the fortress. To attack the fortress, the Germans brought four divisions
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

 to the operation, which were placed under the command of Karl Litzmann
Karl Litzmann
200px|thumbKarl Litzmann was a German World War I infantry general and later a Nazi official. He is best known for his victory in Battle of Łódź...


To support this attack, the Germans constructed a railroad to transport their 42 centimetres (16.5 in) Gamma-Gerät howitzer
A howitzer is a type of artillery piece characterized by a relatively short barrel and the use of comparatively small propellant charges to propel projectiles at relatively high trajectories, with a steep angle of descent...

. The howitzer's shell weighed about 1 ton with a range of 14 km (8.7 mi). Several days into the siege more guns of various calibers were deployed.

The German army concentrated its attack on the First, Second and Third Forts, which were the complex's oldest structures. The army did not surround the entire fortress, and its defense was able to regroup and resupply. On August 8, the Germans intensified their bombardment, but the fortress garrison withstood several attempts to breach the defensive perimeter. Several days afterward, the bombardment of the fortress reached its peak; its defenders sustained heavy casualty rates of 50% to 75%. On August 14, over 1,000 defending troops were killed, but the Germans were unable to completely overcome the fortress' defenses. However, on the next day, Gamma-Gerät shells destroyed the First Fort and the Germans transferred their attentions to the Second Fort. The fight was now within the confines of the greater fortress complex.

At the cost of many casualties, the Third Fort's defenders delayed the advance of the Germans, but were forced to evacuate and retreat later the same day. The next day the Fourth Fort was abandoned and the Fifth Fort was conquered soon afterwards. In a chain reaction, the other forts began capitulating. Commander Grigoriev abandoned his post and escaped to Žiežmariai
Žiežmariai is a city in the Kaišiadorys district municipality, Lithuania. It is located south of Kaišiadorys.Žiežmariai has a rare, surviving wooden synagogue.-References:...

. When the Germans crossed the Nemunas river they captured the Sixth and Seventh Forts. The remaining two forts were captured soon afterwards. After eleven days of fighting, the fortress had been taken.

The defensive forces sustained 20,000 casualties, and about 1,300 weapons were captured by the Germans. Grigoriev was arrested by Russian authorities, tried, and sentenced to fifteen years in prison for failure to properly perform his duties. He also suffered the revocation of all his awards, military degrees, and honors. The Germans used materials from the fortress elsewhere during their war against Russia.

Researchers have identified factors contributing to the relatively rapid fall of the fortress. It had not been completely renovated; its defenders were inexperienced; the crew had been frequently rotated, and had not been able to familiarize themselves with the surrounding area and with the fortress. Although most of their experience lay in the defense of the fortress' interior, they were dispatched to fight on open ground. When the combat moved outside the fortress, communication lines were disrupted by the German bombardment, and the fortress defense was unable to restore complete communication with the command center or with other forts. The absence of external support was a crucial factor in its fall.


Lithuania regained its independence
Council of Lithuania
The Council of Lithuania , after July 11, 1918 The State Council of Lithuania , was convened at the Vilnius Conference that took place between September 18 and 23, 1917. The council was granted the executive authority of the Lithuanian people and was entrusted to establish an independent...

 on February 16, 1918 and the old fortress was placed under engineering staff supervision. Those materials that had not been taken by the Germans were used to resupply Lithuanian military needs, and for the construction of the armored train Gediminas, named after the 14th century Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas. In 1920, the Kaunas Fortress Board was formed and charged with the task of administering the fortress. Due to the development of new military technologies, its reconstruction was seen as a vast and inappropriate expense. The fortress' armament was dismantled and the trenches were filled with scrap iron.

Sections of the fortress were given to various civil institutions, while the army occupied the barracks of the former 28th Division. The Sixth and Ninth forts were used as prisons and the Central Archive was located in the Seventh Fort; the Republic's official radio station was based in the fortress; a gas chamber
Gas chamber
A gas chamber is an apparatus for killing humans or animals with gas, consisting of a sealed chamber into which a poisonous or asphyxiant gas is introduced. The most commonly used poisonous agent is hydrogen cyanide; carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide have also been used...

 was installed in the gunpowder depot of the First Fort and used to execute condemned prisoners. Some sections were used as housing for the poor. As the city of Kaunas expanded near the complex, its roads became public streets. The structures and layouts of the new sections were influenced by the presence of the fortress.

World War II

Adjustments to the secret protocols of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, was an agreement officially titled the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and signed in Moscow in the late hours of 23 August 1939...

 assigned Lithuania to the Soviet sphere of influence, and it was occupied  by the USSR in June 1940. The fortress was then used to conduct interrogations and house political prisoners. The pact was broken when Germany invaded Russia
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

 on June 22, 1941. Nazi forces entered Kaunas on June 24. The Sixth Fort became a POW camp for Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 soldiers. Kaunas's Jewish population numbered between 35,000 and 40,000; few would survive the Holocaust in Lithuania. The Nazis, aided by Lithuanian auxiliaries, began massacring the Jewish population. On July 6, acting under orders of the SS, Lithuanian auxiliary police units shot nearly 3,000 Jews at the Seventh Fort. On August 18, in what came to be known as the "intellectuals action", over 1,800 Jews were shot at the Fourth Fort. On October 28, the "Great Action" took place—the residents of the Kaunas Ghetto
Kaunas Ghetto
The Kovno ghetto was a ghetto established by Nazi Germany to hold the Lithuanian Jews of Kaunas during the Holocaust. At its peak, the Ghetto held 40,000 people, most of whom were later sent to concentration and extermination camps, or were shot at the Ninth Fort...

 were summoned, and over 9,000 men, women and children were taken to the Ninth Fort and executed. During the later course of the occupation, over 5,000 Jewish deportees from Central Europe
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

 would be executed at this fort. About 60 escaped in December 1943; they had been assigned to excavate and burn the bodies of earlier victims, as part of Aktion 1005. Thirteen of these escapees were able to document the Aktion's attempt to hide the evidence of the mass murders.

When Germany began losing the war and the battlefront approached Lithuania, the German defense began attempts to prepare a defensive in Kaunas, including the use of the fortress. The Nemunas River was labelled "the line of catastrophe", and Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 called for its defense at any price. On August 1, 1944 Kaunas was captured by the Red Army. The remaining fortress structures were used for military needs and several of the original structures were demolished or redeveloped.

The number of deaths at the fortress during World War II vary by source; the United States Holocaust Museum gives detailed descriptions of the deaths of about 18,500 Holocaust victims. Other sources mention 30,000 Jewish deaths, with total number 50,000.


Lithuania remained a Soviet Socialist Republic until 1990. In 1948, the headquarters of the 7th Guards Cherkassy Airborne Division was established in the fortress' commandant's headquarters. The barracks were used by the 108th paratroopers regiment and the Fifth Fort served the air defense regiment. Most of the forts, however, served as depots or housed farming organizations. During the postwar expansion and development of the city, parts of the fortress were dismantled; as part of the construction of Kaunas Polytechnic Institute the ground-level entrenchments of one defensive sector were destroyed.

In 1958, the Ninth Fort
Ninth Fort
The Ninth Fort is a stronghold in the northern part of Šilainiai elderate, Kaunas, Lithuania. It is a part of the Kaunas Fortress, which was constructed in the late 19th century. During the occupation of Kaunas and the rest of Lithuania by the Soviet Union, the fort was used as a prison and...

 was dedicated as a museum. During 1959, its first exhibition was opened, memorializing the crimes that had taken place there. The museum later expanded its scope to cover the fortress' entire history. A 32 m (105 ft)  tall memorial to the victims was constructed there in 1984. However, the Soviet military occupied most of the fortress until Lithuania re-established its independence
Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania
The Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania or Act of March 11 was an independence declaration by the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic adopted on March 11, 1990...

. After the withdrawal of Soviet forces, completed in 1993, Lithuanian military bases were established at several forts.
As of early 2007, only the Ninth Fort had been completely renovated. It is now devoted to the Holocaust and Lithuania's occupations by the Nazis and the Soviets. The museum, which holds over 65,000 artefacts, is sponsored by the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania
The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania is a governmental body of the Republic of Lithuania. Its mission is to formulate and implement state cultural policies supporting professional and amateur art, theatre, music, fine arts, cinema, museums, libraries, and written publications, to...

. Since the early 2000s, it has received about 100,000 visitors per year and hosted Holocaust education seminars and workshops. In 2005, the international project "Baltic Culture and Tourism Route Fortresses" was launched, with support from the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

. Its goal is the promotion of transnational scientific cooperation in monument protection, along with the creation of strategies to reconstruct and manage fortresses in the region. Kaunas Fortress is a part of this project. In the 2000s, a variety of entities owned parts of the complex: the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Defence, the State Property Fund, and the City of Kaunas. The site still contains unexploded ordnance, although a 1995 project removed about 1.9 tonnes of explosives. Other restoration issues include uncovered wells, poor drainage and ventilation, erosion, possible chemical contaminants, vegetative overgrowth, and the presence of a protected bat colony. Despite the damage that it has sustained, the Kaunas Fortress complex is the most complete of the surviving Russian Empire fortresses.

External links

Gamma-gerät in pictures
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