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Hard Labour Prison

In 1918, when the Lithuanian state was reestablished, the Ninth Fort was not used by its original purpose. It was transferred to the Ministry of National Defence, and a transport battalion was established. The young state faced a lack of places for imprisonment; therefore, a decision was made to transform the Ninth Fort to a division of Kaunas Hard Labour Prison. Consequently, the Ministry of National Defence transferred the Fort to the Ministry of Justice in August, 1924. The reconstruction of the Fort started immediately: the barracks behind the Fort were encircled by a six-metre brick wall with two watchtowers; a small house for meetings separated a yard for strolls and a farmyard; 14 cells were arranged in the two-storey barracks of the fort with 18-20 places for prisoners in each; three punishment cells were also arranged for prisoners’ discipline.

After the reconstruction, the Ninth Fort served the purpose to imprison the people punished administratively or during pre-trial period, as well as criminal and political prisoners. The majority of political prisoners was the members of illegal Lithuanian Communist Party convicted for anti-state activity. Some of them had a high position in the Soviet government apparatus later, when the Soviet occupation started: Antanas Sniečkus (the First Secretary of the Lithuanian Communist Party’s Central Committee) or Motiejus Šumauskas (the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Soviet Lithuania).

The prisoners did various agricultural tasks in the 74 hectares of land, belonging to the prison. The production obtained was used not only for prisoners’ nourishment in the Ninth Fort but also in the Central Hard Labour Prison in Kaunas (at present, A. Mickevičiaus Street 10). A part of the fruit-trees planted by prisoners have remained until now.

In 1940, when Lithuania was incorporated into the Soviet Union, the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs of the Soviet Union (NKVD) became the owner of the Ninth Fort instead of the Ministry of Justice. The Fort was transformed into an intermediary station of transferring mainly political prisoners. Here the people from prisons in Kaunas and the surrounding areas were collected before sending them to Gulag camps in the depth of the Soviet Union. The Fort was the only common prisoner transfer point in Lithuania as all other prisons in the country sent prisoners at their own discretion.