Sodo g. 5, LT-96136 Gargždai
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Destructive war

Main Hall of Gargždai Area Museum

Although in 1939 Germany and the Soviet Union undersigned a non-aggression pact, there were few in Europe who believed in lasting peace between the two dictators. And, indeed, conquest of the Soviet Union was a necessary condition for A. Hitler in order to establish the powerful German Empire, therefore after the war with France ended, as soon as in July of 1940 he commanded the German General Staff to prepare the plan of attack against the Soviet Union.

After the occupation in 1940 and annexation by the Soviet Union, Lithuania became a western region of the Soviet Union, therefore in the event of war with Germany, Lithuania would have been one of the first countries to face the horrors of war. At the beginning of 1940, people who lived near the German-Soviet Union border recognized the threat of war more clearly than anyone who lived in the further regions of Lithuania. Military units concentrated on both sides of the border; construction of fortifications, ongoing military manoeuvres – it all showed that the war was unavoidable.

At around 4am (in Lithuania’s time) on the 22nd of June 1941, massive bombing of  the Soviet military positions and fortifications took place. One hour later, the German army started entering Lithuania. German 291st and 61st Infantry Divisions (a total of about 27 thousand soldiers) were attacking Palanga–Švėkšna frontier. 291st German division was ordered to occupy Palanga and Kretinga, to continue breaking through towards Skuodas and Liepaja. 61st Infantry Division was given the task to push towards Kuliai and Rietavas and occupy Plungė – town which was significant for railway communications. Soviet 10th Rifle Division (about 11 thousand soldiers) was set out against the aforesaid German divisions.

The Soviet army was unprepared for such a sudden and unexpected attack of Germany; therefore Soviet division units situated in the border zone were forced to retreat. Soviet soldiers who had not managed to pull back and remained behind enemy lines were forming clusters (such clusters were formed in the areas of Antkopčiai, Ablinga, Endriejavas, Kuliai, etc.), however, they were quickly liquidated by the Germans. During the time of retreat, Soviet 10th Rifle Division was completely destroyed. On the 3rd of July 1941, the were 980 out of 11 000 remaining troops; others were either killed or captured. Already in the evening of the 22nd of June, German 61st Infantry Division troops reached Rietavas, where the further onset was temporarily stopped by the 98th Regiment of the Soviet 10th Rifle Division.

The first days of war have brought border residents great damage and loss. During the fighting, towns were severely damaged, civilians were killed, Jewish Holocaust began from the very first days of war. Gargždai town which was closest to the border within the Palanga-Švėkšna suffered great damage. It took 176th Regiment of German 61st Division 12 hours of fierce battle to destroy Gargždai garrison of the NKVD border troops. The Germans lost about 200 troops in the battle for Gargždai; the loss of Soviet military is unknown. Civilians were killed by German soldiers, almost the whole town was burnt, 201 Gargždai Jews were executed the next day of the war.

Exposition “Pragaištingas karas“ (Destructive war) reflects the events of the first days of the Second World War on the former Lithuanian-German border, recollections and experiences of the contemporaries; introduces the historical context; stories and comments are illustrated by historical photographs and documents from Gargždai Area Museum.

Exposition of 19th century’s household and farming items and tools is created in a dwelling house of Agluonėnai Ethnographic Homestead; original interior of the residential part of the house (estuba) in the left corner of the house is preserved as left by the last owner of a homestead.