The Kovno Ghetto and Ninth Fort in Kaunas rank in infamy with such better-known killing complexes as Bergen-Belsen and Dachau. The Nazis reduced the Jewish population of Kaunas from 37000 to 2500 in the course of three years.
Built at the end of the 19th century, the fort was the ninth in a series of forts constructed by the Russians to defend the western border of their empire. During World War II the fort fell to the Germans after just 11 days of battle. It was when the Nazis occupied Kaunas, however, that the fort was used for more hideous purposes. Jews were imprisoned here prior to being executed in the killing fields behind. Jews from France, Austria and Germany were also brought to Kaunas and executed in the Ninth Fort. “We are 900 Frenchmen”, Abraham Wechsler of Limoges inscribed in the wall immediately before his death. Today the mass burial place of the victims’ skeletal bodies is a grass field, marked by a stark but frankly worded memorial in several language including both Yiddish and Hebrew – “This is the place where nazis and their assistants killed more than 30000 jews from Lithuania and other European countries”.
An impressive monument to commemorate the victims of Nazism was erected in 1984.