There is a building in Vilnius, not too far from Old Town and down the street from Gediminas’ Tower, that you simply must visit. The building is now the Museum of Genocide Victims, but is also referred to as the KGB Museum, as it used to be the KGB Headquarters during the Soviet occupation. It was also the headquarters of the German Gestapo during the Second World War, so you could say the walls of the building has seen and heard a lot over the past century.
I think it’s time for a brief history lesson (as usual).
The plaque outside the entrance of the museum reads – “Throughout the Soviet era (1940 to 1941 and 1944 to 1991) the building was occupied by the Soviet repressive institutions such as the NKVD – NKGB – MGB and KGB while during the period 1941 to 1944, the Gestapo reigned in the building. Out of this building came the evil thoughts for the extermination of residents and persecution of the otherwise minded. The basement of the building served as a prison for the Nazis while the Soviets used it as a prison with an execution chamber inside.”
The plaque alone summed up the gruesome and tragic history of this house in one paragraph.
Once inside you are free to stroll around the three floors, but you are advised to follow numbers on the doors to each room. This way you will get a full history lesson in what has happened within the walls of the house. The KGB prison was in the basement of the building, and you will get to see the incredibly small cells and the tiny outside area for the prisoners to breathe fresh air. I do suggest you prepare yourself for strong impressions. The tour ends with a voluntary visit to the execution chamber, where the walls are covered in bullet holes. Not for the faint hearted.
Visiting the KGB Museum was a rather heavy experience, but I would still advise anyone going to Vilnius to see it. It is easy to forget and ignore all the cruelty we have put each other through throughout history, which makes it even more important to remember. The KGB building stands as proof of years and years of segregation, humiliation and oppression, and it is important that we acknowledge what humans have done to each other in order to prevent it happening again.
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