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Museum of Genocide Victims

Vilnius' KGB Museum


Vilnius KGB Museum

Vilnius KGB Museum

Kerry Kubilius, licensed to About.com
The Vilnius Museum of Genocide Victims, casually known as the KGB Museum, is housed in a building formerly used by repressive regimes for eavesdropping, torture, and execution. Artifacts, documents, technology used by the KGB, deportees’ personal effects, and photographs fill three floors of KGB offices, records rooms, and prison cells. Though maybe not one of Vilnius’ must-see sights because of its graphic nature, it is an important museum that anyone interested in Eastern Europe or the history of the last century should visit.

The Museum of Genocide Victims is an important Vilnius museum, and its exhibitions are well-organized with English-language translations. Items are well-labeled and the tour route clearly marked. When you enter, purchase a ticket from the cashier to your left. Adults pay 6 litas, while students and seniors pay 3 litas. A guided tour in English costs 8 litas for adults and 5 litas for students and seniors. Unfortunately, photos are not permitted.

Basement Level: KGB Prison

The lower level of the KGB Museum holds the cells, interrogation rooms, and torture rooms of the former KGB prison. Two small, windowless rooms, called “the boxes,” only a few feet wide and deep were used to hold newly arrested prisoners while their papers were processed. Prison cells are shown as they were during Soviet times, and the interrogation room maintains its furniture, which was bolted to the floor to prevent prisoners from harming interrogators.

More deeply underground is the execution chamber, its walls still marred by bullets used to execute prisoners. Up to 40 prisoners were executed in one night. In the official KGB plan of the building, the execution room was labeled as the kitchen. Bodies were dragged out through the narrow windows to be buried on the outskirts of Vilnius.

Ground Floor

The ground floor exhibitions are dedicated to the history of Lithuanian history from 1940 to 1953, the time of Stalin’s death. The so-called Forest Brothers lead a partisan fight against Soviet occupation. Young men, many between the ages of 20 and 30, joined forces and led a fight against the intruders from Lithuania’s wooded territory. Women also played a part in this fight, some acting in combat and others acting as messengers. The Forest Brothers were kept supplied with food and other necessities by patriotic rural populations.

1st Floor

The first floor of the Vilnius KGB Museum tells the story of deportation of Lithuanians to Siberia and exhibits some of the delicate handmade items that were brought back from labor camps, including needlework, embroidery, jewelry, and prayer books. These items were created by deportees using makeshift materials, such a birch bark or fish bone. Information is included about labor camp escapees and what happened to people who returned to Lithuania after serving their time in exile; they continued to be persecuted and were unable to gain employment or access to confiscated property.

The first floor also contains a recreated eavesdropping room and information about the KGB and the resistance in the latter half of the 20th century. For example, one room demonstrates how the Iron Curtain was more than a figure of speech—that the USSR implemented measures to isolate its people from the outside world and prevent movement across borders. Media was stifled, radio stations jammed, foreign visitors watched, and travel limited to only a select number of cities within Lithuania.

A number of English-language books are for sale at the Museum of Genocide Victims. Some review the information presented by the museum exhibitions while others share memories of deportees, describe the state of the secret police in Lithuania, or provide details about the resistance against Russian forces.

The Museum of Genocide Victims is located just off of Gediminas Prospect on Auku gatve. The outside bears the names of victims and the years of birth and death—most of the inscriptions show tragically short lives. The museum is open Wednesday to Saturday 10 am to 6 pm and Sunday 10 am to 5 pm.

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