vyrud (vyrud) wrote,

Macikai - Stalag Luft VI and NKVD Gulag-3

Being last may in Šilutė I for the first time visited the suburban village of this town - Macikai (located about 2 km away from Šilutė). This was and is very ordinary village known only as the birthplace of German writer Hermann Sudermann (one of two most famous German writers born in Memel land). But during WWII Nazis established here POW camp - the most northern POW camp in the Reich. Camp was called Stalag Luft VI and as the name suggest it primary "clients" were pilots. The camp has been evacuated in autumn of 1944 but the history of the camp wasn't finished and the camp existed till 1955. Later this camp was forgotten (the history of the camp don't allowed to memorialize it ...) and was again remembered only in 1990s. Despite that very few elements of the former camp remained it is unique WWII period monument in Lithuania:

Nazis treated Memelgebiet as the legitimate area of the Reich and WWII years here differs from the the rest of the country. In the Šilutė suburban village Macikai in 1939 Nazis established camp to held Polish POWs. In 1942 they "reformed" this relatively small camp to significantly bigger one - Stalag Luft VI. The name suggest that the  "purpose" of the camp was to held pilots of planes that were shot down. There were six Stalag Lufts in Germany and this was the last one and located in the farthest possible corner of the Reich.
Another characteristic property of this camp that majority of the people held here were servicemen of western countries: Macikai is the single way in Lithuania were so many British and American military were held and some of them lost their lives (from about 10000  POWs held here more than 9000 were British, Canadian and American airmen, the second most populous group were Polish POWs - about 300-500 people). In the autumn of 1944 the camp and the people held here were evacuated from Macikai.
But the break in the camps activities was very short : it was again reopened at the end of 1944. In 1945it got the name GULAG-3 under the "auspicies" of NKVD. In 1944-1947 here were held German POWs. When last Germans were moved from Macikai the camp still wasn't closed: in 1948 - 1955 it was used to held and execute the "enemies of the Soviet regime" (most of them of course Lithuanian residents). And only the year 1955 marked the end of the cruelties made in this place. After that this place went to oblivion: the complicated history of the camp wasn't the good place to memorialize it by the soviets. In 1960s or early 1970s most of the camp buildings were destroyed and the pansionat for older people with mental disabilities was built. And only in 1990 this place went back to the remembrance. Since 1995 it is treated as the state protected historical monument. In 2000 here various memorials were built and that also made it very "international" in some sense place.

So let's go and see. Macikai today is very small village - several houses only. But among them is the native home of Hermann Sudermann:

As I said earlier most of the former camp buildings were destroyed in 1960s and the pansionat for the older people with psychiatric diseases was built. Unfortunatelly I don't photographed them: the personal and the security of the pansionat went immediately on  alert seeing my camera. For the first time in Lithuania I met such determined reaction (this probably was because among seven things that laws of Lithuania prohibits to photograph or film is the prohibition to photograph mentally ill people). But you aren't loosing too much: two typical rectangular boxes renovated in recent years.

The single remaining building of the camp is the former sweatbox (built in 1941-1942):

The best "preserved" part of the former camp is the cemetery (marked also after 1990):

In the cemetery you can find full set of monuments showing complicated history of the camp. The cross built in 1989 by local people with the note "to WWII victims from Lithuanian people":

But on this cross you can also find small memorial table with the national flag of Belgium (I can't understand the note Stalag 1A):

In 2000s various countries began to build memorial tables to commemorate their fallen servicemen. Modest American and Canadian memorials:

Polish memorial:

Russian memorial built in 2010:

German memorial:

Near this German memorial is one more German table specifically mentioning also Lithuanian soldiers from Klaipėda area:

There are not so many places were memorials to Polsih and German victims of WWII syands next to each other:

And the last part of the memorial - memorial tombs of Lithuanian victims of this camp. Most of them are private monuments of their family members. It may look strange but now probably only Lithuanian victims aren't honoured here at the state level:

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Tags: Klaipėda area, report, Šilutė

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