Wednesday, June 25, 2014

IXth Fort (ninth fort)

IXth Fort was used over many years by several regimes for purposes ranging from city prison, torture place, way station to Siberia by the Soviets, to death site of the Nazis.

 Russians spent more than 20 years building it, yet the IXth fort was never used as a fort. IXth fort was almost immediately surrendered to the German Big Bertha in August 1915.
My father was an infant.

On the day of Big Action on October 29, 1941, 10,000 Jews from the Kovno ghetto were taken to the IXth Fort field of death and shot, including my great-aunt (see comment below).
My father was 26 years old. 
Was he in Kaunas but not living in the ghetto or was he not there? 
 My sister says he says he was deported  via Smolensk.
He may have been in Ukbekhistan.
Amazingly, I can apply to the KGB archives in Vilnius and confirm this with his deportation records.
My father chose not to talk about this traumatic time in his life.  Now he is gone.
We lost the opportunity in 1999-2007 when my father may have travelled to Lithuania. none of us thought to do it, and he likely would have refused.

The former Soviet bloc is just learning to tell the stories of traumatic times. See the post "Poland for the Day,"  Sowalki Poland showed no acknowledgment of its former Jewish citizens when I visited.
 Soviet rule put a hold on telling what Lithuanians and Poles don't want to hear anyway.
Richard Schofield is a British photodocumentarian doing interesting work to fill that void:

Guide Chaim Bargman chose to focus our tour of the IXth fort less on the torture and killing that occurred there and more on a story of hope and escape from the IXth fort.

Chaim's story is a story he has researched personally for more than 20 years, talking to every survivor and family of survivor he can find of the great escape from IX on December 25-26,1943. 

It is a story that deserves to be better known.

Chaim in front of a diagram of the escape route of Sixty-four Jewish corpse burner workers from the IXth Fort. 
Their escape plans read straight from a Hollywood film, a complex series of smart preparation, clever engineering, flexibility to change according to circumstances, loyalty, and sacrifice. 

 (in the role of Sasha Podosky, leader of the escape, my choice is Ben Affleck.)

Creepy huge concrete sculpture at the entrance. The middle one is supposed to be hope but this creepiness was way too close to the killing site memorial for my taste. 

Lots of tunnels connecting cannon places.

This is the end of the tunnel where the escape of 64 prisoners occurred. They departed in groups of 16 with an elaborate plan that was delayed by one day because the fresh snow would have revealed footprints. Plan included passage carved through wood piles, cutout of metal door, and sheets sewn together for camouflage in the snow. 
Managed the impossible task of getting past the tower guards with machine guns.

A boy who was hidden is returned to his father. there is the occasional happy story. This woman and her family would have been shot and killed had they been discovered.

The Germans eastward attack was quick and a surprise. up to 70 miles a day were covered. The Soviet border was crossed in June, 1941.
  Keidan massacre was in August, 1941.
Kovno Day of Big Action was October, 1941.
Kovno Ghetto liquidation July 8, 1944

my mother claims my father was warned by his mother to go east when she was in Keidan and he was in Kovno. That could date my fathers flee from Lithuania  up to June, 1941. 
That could mean that he fled from the Germans and not earlier from the Lithuanian army. 
The first massive deportation by the Soviets was also in June, 1941, only a week before the Nazi invasion, so it is also possible my father was deported in June, 1941, which is how my sister has written the story.

1 comment:

  1. Sharonsilber8@gmail.comJune 26, 2014 at 3:56 AM

    Many of our Lithuanian cousins died here as well as in Keidan. Dad's aunt Chana had six children and moved to Kovno. They grew up, had families, and died there. All except 2 young girls hidden by nuns, whose descendents now live in Israel.