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Lithuanian soldiers train to fight Russia at concentration camp

The soldiers were found to be training to fight Russian troops at one of the first concentration camps set up by the Nazis

    Lithuanian soldiers have been carrying out military training on the grounds of a former concentration camp and burial ground for Jews.

    The soldiers were found to be training to fight Russian troops at one of the first concentration camps set up by the Nazis after the beginning of the war with the Soviet Union.

    According to the Kauno Diena news website the soldiers deployed at Seventh Fort, in Kaunas, were there as part of a military drill.

    The concentration camp is home to the remains of 5,000 murdered Jews, who were buried in mass graves.

    Seventh Fort is often visited by relatives who come to light candles and pray in memory of those murdered there.

    The site was privatised by the government in 2009 despite concerns being raised at the time by the Jewish Community of Lithuania.

    The group said it was a “huge mistake” to privatise the camp.

    The 18-acre bunker site is managed by a nongovernmental organization led by Vladimir Orlov, a 38-year-old amateur historian and military enthusiast.

    Mr Orlov charges an entrance fee to the site, which is also used for children’s summer camps and rented out for private events.

    Last year he told the JTA the money made from the camp was used to preserve the site as an educational institution.

    He said it teaches visitors about the Holocaust.

    Mr Orlov would not comment on how much revenue the camp brings in, or how much was spent on commemoration.

    Efraim Zuroff, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said the government had shown a “incredible lack of sensitivity” by training on the grounds.

    Mr Zuroff said he was also concerned that the deployment risked the desecration of the burial grounds since the area is not fenced off.

    The Lithuanian government’s fear over the expansionist policies of Russia has resulted in it updating its own defence capabilities in recent months.

    Thousands of Lithuanian troops attended training with NATO contingents across the country this summer.

    The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry has not responded to questions posed by JTA about the deployment.

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