Loads of museums- so little time! Leashia and I managed to get to a fair few. Don’t forget many state owned museums are free on the last sunday of each month and may be closed on a monday.
Above- A cross fashioned from an artillery shell and a prison cell now dedicated to Jews murdered by the Nazi’s.
This is the second KGB Museum that Leashia and I have visited, the other was in Riga which was a horrifying experience. This museum is housed in the building that was the former headquarters in Vilnius of the infamous Cheka/ KGB and Gestapo. Like the KGB museum in Riga the experience was just as horrific but necessary if you want to try and understand what the Lithuanians suffered under the Soviet occupations of 1940- 1941 and 1944-1990 as well as the Nazi occupation of 1941-1944. The similarities to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 is obvious- the warning signs were already there in 2014, but the world chose to ignore them. History repeating.
The exhibits are numerous, graphic and disturbing and cover all aspects of the Soviet and Nazi occupations including protests, the resistance and partisan groups. The size of the complex is shockingly large and there are many prison cells as well as interrogation and torture chambers, exercise areas and an execution room that you can walk into. Not nice.
This small museum is hidden up a steep path but well signposted so you shouldn’t miss it. Exhibits relating to the Holocaust in Lithuania and life in the Ghetto’s are covered in detail. Another harrowing but necessary experience to take in when visiting the city.
The Tolerance Center [American spelling] is set in an old Jewish Theatre [English spelling] and has displays covering the history and culture of Lithuanian Jews [Litvaks]. The occupation, persecution and resistance of the Jewish people is also covered. On our visit the museum was having a facelift and the exhibits mainly consisted of a huge amount of writing which I would have preferred to have absorbed in book format as it was too much to take in.
The best part for us was the Samuel Bak Museum, which is actually an art gallery displaying work by the artist Samuel Bak- a Vilnius born survivor of the Ghetto. Drawing on his experiences in the ghetto, his work is post modern in style, powerful and evocative.
This museum is simply wonderful. A real immersive hands on experience. Leashia and I spend over two hours here and tried out and interacted with every exhibit.
We had a friendly and knowledgeable member of staff with us nearly all of the time which really enhanced our visit as they encouraged us and explained the science. We were never rushed. We absolutely loved it!
Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
Gedimnas Castle and Museum
Bastion of the Vilnius Defensive Wall