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Nazis in the Upside Down

‘Stranger Things’ filmed in Lithuania jail where Nazis held Jews

Season 4 of Netflix teen hero sci-fi series features scenes shot at Lukiškės Prison in Vilnius; Menachem Begin was jailed there in 1940 for Zionist activity in Soviet Union

David Harbour in a scene from season four of 'Stranger Things.' (Screenshot from YouTube/JTA)
David Harbour in a scene from season four of 'Stranger Things.' (Screenshot from YouTube/JTA)

JTA — Now streaming on Netflix: scenes from inside a notorious Lithuanian prison whose inmates have included Jews en route to being murdered by Nazis and future Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin.

Part of season four of “Stranger Things,” the teen hero sci-fi series, was filmed inside Lukiškės Prison in Vilnius, according to promotional materials distributed by the Lithuanian capital’s tourism board.

The prison was used for a century before closing in 2019; it has now been converted into a cultural center where guests can stay in a “Stranger Things”-themed cell for 107 Euros ($114) a night.

During Lukiškės’s century of operation, it was the site of imprisonment, torture and executions for political prisoners.

In 1941, the first people to be murdered in the Ponary massacre were 348 Jews and others who had been imprisoned at Lukiškės. Nearly 100,000 people, mostly Jewish, would be murdered at the Ponary site near Vilnius, formerly known as Vilna, in the subsequent months.

Lukiškės was also where Begin was imprisoned for eight months in 1940 and 1941 because of his Zionist activity within the Soviet Union. His time there was marked by “extremely cold and hungry conditions,” according to a timeline assembled by the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, and was followed by deportation to a Soviet penal colony.

That ultimately may have saved his life, as he was freed when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union and ultimately was able to make his way to what would become Israel, where he became the sixth prime minister in 1977. Much of his family was murdered.

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