Several monuments in the vicinity of the Lithuanian, formerly Eastern Prussian town of Šilutė (German: Heydekrug) commemorate soldiers of various nationalities who perished at the Stalag Luft VI prisoner of war camp between 1939 and 1944.
The Lithuanian town of Šilutė (German: Heydekrug) is located in the Klaipėda German: Memel) Region, which until the end of the First World War was part of the German border region to Lithuania. Jews first settled in Heydekrug at the beginning of the 19th Century. After the First World War, the Klaipėda Region was administered by the League of Nations; in 1923, it was occupied by Lithuania. The town was reclaimed by the German Reich in March 1939. After the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, a prisoner of war camp was established in the vicinity of Heydekrug. The POW camp, the most northeasterly situated camp of its kind in the German Reich, was mainly meant to hold Polish prisoners of war. In 1942, the Wehrmacht turned it into the so-called »Stalag Luft VI«, a POW camp primarily for pilots and members of the airforce. In 1944, the camp was transferred to the west due to the advancing eastern front. Most of the 10,000 prisoners were Britons, Americans and Canadians. Little is known of their fates. Beginning June 1941, the local SS also set up several labour camps for Jews from Heydekrug and the entire Heydekrug administrative district in the area. Jews deemed unfit for labour were later shot by SS men. There is only little information about these camps. These »wild camps« was dismantled in 1943. The SS subsequently deported all of the Jewish prisoners to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp.
Most of the prisoners of the POW camp near Heydrekrug came from Great Britain, the USA or Canada - 9,000 men in total. A further 300 to 500 prisoners of war were from Poland. There were fatalities at the camp, however, the exact number is not known. There is also little information about the Jewish forced labourers deployed at Heydekrug: it is assumed that several hundred Jews had to conduct forced labour in the camps around the town.
After the Red Army had taken the Klaipėda Region in 1944 and subsequently incorporated it in the Soviet Union, the Soviet authorities continued to use the POW camp: Until 1947, German prisoners of war were held here. From 1948 on, the premises were also used by the Soviet secret service NKVD. The NKVD incarcerated political opponents, mostly local Lithuanians, in what was now called »GULAG 3«. The camp was dismantled in 1955, and in the following decades the history of the camp fell into oblivion. Commemorating the many layers of history associated with the camps at Šilutė were not compatible with the Soviet politics of history, which were centred around anti-fascist resistance and the »Great Patriotic War«. In the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union collapsed and Lithuania regained its independence, first efforts were made to commemorate the former Stalag camp and the GULAG: The camp cemetery was made accessible again and marked in 1995, and since the 2000s several memorials and monuments have been erected in honour of various victim groups of the camps at Šilutė. However, the forced labour camps for Jews have largely been forgotten.
- Macikų koncentracijos stovyklos vieta ir kapai
- The monuments are always accessible.