Sunday, June 26, 2011

⅏Did You Know: The "Ninth Fort" Massacres

Did You Know...

On June 25, 1940, hundreds of Kovno Jews are taken to the "Ninth Fort" and murdered?

The Ninth Fort, 1944

The Ninth Fort in Kaunas, Lithuania was originally built as a defensive fortress in the years 1901–1913. During the Nazi occupation, over 50,000 people were executed there, including over 30,000 Jews and over 10,000 foreigners.
Jews inside the Ninth Fort,
immediately after their arrival there
and prior to their execution
In secret the Nazis called it Vernichtungsstelle Nr 2 – Extermination place number 2. Here were murdered some 25,000 of Kovno’s Jews, as well as 15,000 Jews deported from the Greater Reich, thousands of Jewish Prisoners – of – War who had served in the Red Army, and many other Jews. 

Before their execution, the detainees were incarcerated in underground cells known as “casements” in damp, darkness, and fear. There, people fought with one another for a brighter corner in the cells, for a piece of a straw mattress, for a scrap of food, or for a crumb of bread. There, Jews were shackled in iron chains, harnessed to ploughs in place of horses, forced to dig into peat-pits inside the fort, and often whipped to death. There, one soon lost one’s own – there, life turned into senseless pain, after which death came as redemption.
Jewish prisoners on a wall
 inside Fort IX,
shortly before their execution
Keidan a father of four children was incarcerated at the Fort and tortured there for five months. With others he stood naked in the pit awaiting execution, and somehow miraculously escaped from the Fort. He was the first to bring an authentic report from the Hell on Earth. In fifteen mass pits, some 45,000 innocent victims found their awful burial, 3,000 in each pit. Thousands of Red Army Prisoners-of-War, all Jews were separated from the other Soviet Prisoners-of- War and were systematically massacred at the Ninth Fort. 

In August 1943 the Kovno Gestapo received orders from Berlin to eradicate the mass graves – to exhume the corpses and to burn them. This was to be carried out by the end of January 1944, when the German retreat from the Baltic States was foreseen. The carrying out of this order was imposed upon seventy-five Jews who were already imprisoned at the Fort, among them Ghetto inmates who had been seized in the Ghetto and brought to the Fort, Red Army Prisoners–of–War, and youngsters from the Ghetto, who had been caught on their way to join partisans in the forest.

Kovno, Lithuania, Mass graves
at the Ninth Fort
Eleven of the seventy-five declared at the outset they were ill, and not capable of doing the job. The Gestapo murdered them by injections of poison. The remaining sixty –four, sixty men and four women formed a labour squad. All of them, apart from one Polish woman, were Jews. 

The work started in September 1943.  The sixty-four were divided into four groups, each of which carried out a part of the job. One group “the diggers” had to dig out the dead corpses – to scrape off the upper layer of the earth from the pits, and then, with spades, remove the first layers of the corpses. This group had to go down into the pit by ladder and, using pitchforks, toss the remaining bodies up to the surface.

All valuables had to be cleaned and polished and handed over to the German supervisors. Most of the corpses were half or totally decayed, but some were well preserved. More than once, the diggers recognised their own acquaintances. On one occasion, a digger recognised his brother.

Not one of the sixty-four prisoners believed he would remain alive  once the job was done. They were reminded morning and evening, day and night, that nobody had ever escaped from the Ninth Fort. 

Monument and Memorial
for Victims of Nazi Atrocities
It was the careful and meticulous planning of prisoner, Captain Kolia Vassilenko, who was brought to the Fort from the Soviet prisoner-of-war camp near Kalvaria, that aided in their freedom.  Vassilenko had been regarded as a Russian until he was compelled to go to the bathhouse, and was discovered to be a Jew.

All the prisoners managed to escape the fortress without being discovered and fled to locations they had decided on in advance.
When morning arrived, the Germans returned to the fortress and found it empty. They called for reinforcements and began a manhunt. All except three of the prisoners who had escaped to the forest were caught.

After they reached freedom, Vassilenko and a number of the escapees made their way to Kovno Ghetto where he gave details of the escape and how in1943 how the Germans carried out the murder of the family of Chief Rabbi Shapiro.
The fugitives also brought with them evidence and materials they had collected in and around the graves during the excavations. “Let them be given to relatives in the Ghetto, to let them know for whom there is no point in waiting any longer.”
Vassilenko told us – the group had also brought with them the gold teeth of some of the slain – the gold weighed a quarter of a kilogram. The other groups had also taken documents and valuables with them.


Did You Know?  For the month of

back in.....

  • 1807, Jun 26, Lightning Strikes in LuxembourgOn this day in 1807, lightning hits a gunpowder factory in the small European country of Luxembourg, killing more than 300 people. Lightning kills approximately 73 people every year in the United States alone, but victims are almost always killed one at a time. The Luxembourg disaster may have been the most deadly lightning strike in history.
  • 1957, Jun 26, A Serial Killer Preys Upon a Woman Out for a Drive.  Margaret Harold is shot and killed while out for a drive with her boyfriend near Annapolis, Maryland.  Her killer swerved in front of the couple's car, approached with a .38 revolver, and shot Harold in the side of the face, while her boyfriend managed to escape.  Investigating police found an abandoned building nearby, filled with pornographic pictures, but its full significance would not be revealed until nearly two years later.
Tips evenutally pointed towards Melvin Rees, a piano salesman working in West Memphis.

Detectives found evidence that linked Rees to the slayings of four other young women in the Maryland area as well.  Rees was tried in February 1961 for the murder of Margaret Harold and in September 1961 for the murders of the Jackson family; he was convicted of both and sentenced to death.  His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1972, and he died in prison from heart failure in 1995.
  • 1971, Jun 30, Soviet Cosmonauts Perish in Re-entry Disaster.  Three Soviet cosmonauts, Georgi Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev who served as the first crew of the world's first space station die when their spacecraft depressurizes during reentry.
On June 6, the cosmonauts were launched into space aboard Soyuz 11 on a mission to dock and enter Salyut 1, the Soviet space station that had been placed in orbit in April which they accomplished and spent 23 dys orbiting the earth.  On June 30, they left Salyut 1 and began reentry procedures. When they fired the explosive bolts to separate the Soyuz 11 reentry capsule from another stage of the spacecraft, a critical valve was jerked open.
A 1971 Stamp commemorating
 the memory of 3 cosmonauts
 (Georgi Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov,
and Viktor Patsayev)

One hundred miles above the earth, the capsule was suddenly exposed to the nearly pressureless environment of space. As the capsule rapidly depressurized, Patsayev tried to close the valve by hand but failed. Minutes later, the cosmonauts were dead. As a result of the tragedy, the Soviet Union did not send any future crews to Salyut 1, and it was more than two years before they attempted another manned mission.
  • 1975, Jun 28, A Teenage Girl's Boyfriend Murders her Parents.  Police are called to the home of Jim and Naomi Olive in Terra Linda, California, after Jim Olive's business partner reports that the couple has not been seen in a week.  Marlene turned up at the police station later that day and began telling a bizarre series of stories explaining her parent's disappearance.  Eventually she led detectives to a fire pit outside the town where the burned remains of her parents were located.  With a little investigation, the detectives found out about Chuck Riley, Marlene's boyfriend. At his home was an unopened letter from Marlene that read, "I have no guilty feelings at all about my folks. NONE. NEITHER SHOULD YOU. Relax."
Because she was a teenager at the time of the murders, Marlene Olive served only four years before being released from prison in 1979. Riley was given a death sentence that was later commuted to life imprisonment.

  • 1976, Jun 27, Ebola Breaks Out in Sudan.  A factory storekeeper in the Nzara township of Sudan becomes ill on this day in 1976.   Five days later, he dies, and the world's first recorded Ebola virus epidemic begins making its way through the area. By the time the epidemic is over, 284 cases are reported, with about half of the victims dying from the disease.
After the storekeeper in Nzara died, a second man in town died on July 6. His brother became sick soon after, but managed to recover. The brother's co-worker went to the hospital on July 12 with symptoms and was dead two days later; the co-worker's wife died five days after that. A week later a male neighbor died. Eventually, another 48 infections and 27 deaths were traced back to the neighbor.
Given this pattern of infection and the fact that hospital workers also started to develop symptoms, doctors realized that transmission of the virus required only close contact. At Maridi Hospital in southern Sudan, 33 of the 61 nurses ended up dead from Ebola fever
The World Health Organization finally arrived in October and helped to contain the epidemic.   Scientists still do not know what causes the disease or how to cure it.
  • 1988, June 27, Tyson knocks out Spinks.  On this day in history, heavyweight champion Mike Tyson (the only heavyweight boxer to hold the WBA, WBC and IBF titles simultaneously), knocks out challenger Michael Spinks 91 seconds into the first round. The decisive victory left the boxing world wondering if anyone could beat "Iron Mike" Tyson.
Mike Tyson at SXSW 2011
Pic by Wiki user Karppinen
Tyson was discovered by legendary boxing trainer Cus D’Amato. D’Amato became a father figure to "Iron" Mike and a stabilizing force in his life: He took the young fighter into his home and dedicated himself to Tyson’s training. D’Amato helped Tyson to focus his aggression and develop the discipline to become a champion. 

One of Tyson's trademark combinations was to throw a right hook to his opponent's body, then follow it up with a right uppercut to his opponent's chin; very few boxers would remain standing if caught by this combination

After Larry Holmes, Michael Spinks was considered the only boxer with a chance against Tyson.  Spinks outmaneuvered the bigger but older Holmes on his way to a 15-round decision and the IBF heavyweight belt on September 21, 1985. In the rematch a year later, Spinks won again.

Spinks was knocked out 91 seconds into the biggest payday and worst beating of his career and he never fought again.

On June 11, 2005, Tyson stunned the boxing world by quitting before the start of the seventh round in a close bout against journeyman Kevin McBride. After losing the third of his last four fights, Tyson said he would quit boxing because he no longer had "the fighting guts or the heart anymore."
  • 1997, Jun 28, Mike Tyson Bites Ear.  Mike Tyson bites Evander Holyfield’s ear in the third round of their heavyweight rematch. The attack led to his disqualification from the match and suspension from boxing, and was the strangest chapter yet in the champion’s roller-coaster career.


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