More than a thousand prisoners were killed in the execution chamber in the basement of the central KGB building between 1944 and the early 1960s. Approximately one-third of them were sentenced to death by Soviet courts, or so- called “courts of three”, for participation in the anti-Soviet resistance.
There is no information about when the last prisoner was shot dead in this basement. A sheet of paper discovered during the excavations (Vakarinės naujienos newspaper of 1 November 1962) shows that the cell was changed at that time, but there is no data about its function. In the Sixties or Seventies, a joiner’s shop was set up here instead of the execution chamber.
There are few documents about the execution of death sentences. They were carried out by a special top-secret group from Department A, and the chief of the prison (from May 1945, a deputy) Lieutenant Colonel V. Dolgirev acted as an executioner himself between 1944 and 1947. During that period, up to 45 convicts could be killed in a night. After execution, the corpse was put in the lumber-room close to the execution chamber, and was later taken away by lorry to the place of burial. The remains of 767 people shot from 1944 to 1947 were found buried in mass graves at Tuskulėnai, not far from the centre of the town.
The place of burial of people shot after 1950 (when the death penalty was restored in the Soviet Union) is still unknown. It is believed that there are several undiscovered mass graves within a radius of 30 kilometres around Vilnius. Probably A. Ramanauskas-Vanagas, shot dead in the execution chamber in 1957, was buried in one of them too.
So far, only the mass grave at Tuskulėnai has been researched. The remains of 724 victims (720 men and four women) were found. The remains of 45 people have been identified. The results of analysis show more details about the executions.
Here is an excerpt from a report on the research into the mass grave in Tuskulėnai.
“Most of the executed, that is 685, or 97 per cent, died from various injuries to the scull: 492 sculls had one bullet hole, 110 two holes, 31 three, 13 had four shots, four had five holes, and two sculls had six. Various sizes of ammunition were used (5.6–9mm,) with the bullet usually entering through the back of the scull and exiting through the top of the head or the face. …
“Apart from evidence of shooting, other forms of injury were found: 118 instances of wounds inflicted by a blunt object, 106 instances of piercing, and four of deep cuts or splitting.
“Blunt, indeterminate objects caused shallow injuries. There is evidence that in some cases the head was squeezed between two flat, hard surfaces.
“Four-sided daggers caused the most piercing injuries. … They show that the victim was struck while lying down and the dagger penetrated the head. Cut and (or) split scull injuries were caused by small axes.”
The exhibition in the former execution chamber opened on 24 June 2000. On display are objects found at Tuskulėnai and in the execution chamber, as well as photographs and documents from archives and museum stocks.