The KGB Museum

The KGB Museum Cover Image

K.A. Bachus

October 1, 2021

Its official name is the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights, but I have always privately called it the KGB museum. The building faces a graceful boulevard, Gedimino Prospektas, in Lithuania’s capital city, Vilnius. It housed a KGB prison and offices from 1944 to 1991 and played a key role in the Soviet defeat of Lithuanian resistance after a decade-long struggle.

I sat in a 'box,' a closet-sized cell with only a narrow bench on the back wall where prisoners were left for long periods prior to interrogation. After hours or days in the cold, cramped cell, the prisoner’s stiff joints, lack of sleep, and disorientation became a prelude to questioning, torture, a labor camp or often, execution.

Prisoners were executed in the basement where the blood was then washed down a drain before the next victim was dragged in and shot . The museum features a terrifying video depiction of the process. The prison itself was set up in the fall of 1940 during the first Soviet occupation. I did not see any information about how the Nazis may have used it during their wartime occupation of the country, but I do not doubt it would have had a similar history.

I did buy and read a book on sale at the museum detailing, in heart-breaking detail, the Jewish holocaust in Lithuania. There were also books about the deportations of Lithuanians under Stalin. My great-grandfather was among the deported. He died in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.

The museum opened in 1992 and originally began with displays detailing what Lithuanians view as twin holocausts by the Nazis and Stalin, but the ground floor now contains a wealth of information about the ten-year war against Soviet occupation that partisans waged in the forests after World War II. A future article will go into more detail on this topic.

The building itself, and especially the prison in the basement, remains as it was when the KGB left in 1991. The names etched into the outside stone structure of the building are some of the executed.