“One commits crimes of passion and crimes of logic. The line that separates them is not

clear. But the Penal Code distinguishes between them on the concept of premeditation.

We are now living in the era of premeditation and perfect crime. Our criminals are no

longer those helpless children who plead love as their excuse; on the contrary, they are

adults and their alibi is an irrefutable one: ‘Philosophy,’ which can be used for anything,

even for transforming murderers into judges.”


These words were written by Albert Camus in the preface of his novel, The Rebel. He, for

all his masterly discontent, did not know that in a country not too distant from his own

France, one engendered and nurtured in the spirit of French thought, in fact, Romania,

the paroxysm of a whole series of crimes was reached in secrecy after August 23, 1944

crimes of a nature so different and unnatural that neither Camus nor any other

Westerner could have believed them possible, or even have imagined them.


An operation to invert and reverse human nature is something that defies the imagination

of any normal human being. Except for the victims and their torturers, only a few, a very

few, persons, who have had the opportunity of informing themselves, can give credence

to those crimes, and furthermore can understand the deeper significance lying beneath

the physical facts.


It is true that the last four decades constitute an era of crime, crime coldly and logically

calculated, even justified as rational. Such crime now dominates the whole world. It

enters into everyday preoccupations. It has become something normal, often

commonplace. It has come to be accepted as natural, so that people no longer take

cognizance of it or comprehend the real threat to the very existence of humanity.


No one can have the patience to compile a list of all the crimes consummated in these

four decades, nor could he do it in a lifetime. They would have to encompass the civil

war in post-Czarist Russia with its forced collectivization, the crimes of which have since

become well known and recognized as such by the world’s leaders. They would have to

include the Greek civil war in which the Communists ravaged whole regions; also the

so-called “People’s Tribunals” that came into being after the war; the bombing of

defenseless cities and hospitals; the present camps of slavery and death in all countries

under Communist control; Budapest in 1956. But all these are but a few chapters

selected from the long story of unleashed evil. They prove either that man has come to

feel the necessity to kill as intensely as he has felt the desire to live, or that through a

logical perversion of a desire to accomplish an ideal he can easily and with scarcely a

twinge of conscience be made to murder the very persons to whom he once intended to

give happiness destroy them in the conviction that this is what he must do, that there is

no other way.


All such crimes have one characteristic in common: they are perpetrated in the name of

humanity, the class struggle, the liberation of the people, the right of the strongest, all at

the discretion of the individual. They all have the same goal: the biological destruction of

the enemy, a principle applied by Stalin with fanaticism. The dead cannot defend

themselves, nor can they accuse.


Such crimes have long been notorious and endlessly repeated. They have become

commonplace and trite. But there is a deeper horror one of which the world as yet knows

nothing. What happened in the prisons of Romania after the nation was subjugated by

the Soviets enlarged the domain of crime beyond what people believed possible. Crime

has been expanded beyond the biological limits and placed on other coordinates and in a

dimension heretofore unknown. Perpetrated in cold blood and cynically, with sadism

never met before, crime now aims not to destroy the body, but the soul.


The biological destruction of an adversary no longer satisfies, or pleases; or maybe it

does not pay any more. The wrecking of the victim’s mind and soul is more appealing

and more useful: the destruction of human characteristics; the reduction of man to a level

of total animality; a definitive dehumanization that transforms what was human into a

docile, malleable protoplasm, instinctively responsive to all the trainer’s whims a zombie.


What is about to be told is, I believe, a unique experience. But it did not spring from

fancy, from a brain that had passed beyond the threshold of rationality. In order for it to

be possible, a distinct evolution was necessary on a plane of thought, on a philosophic

plane, through a long period of upheavals, of breaking down and replacing all values in

which man has so far believed. It was necessary that “speculations of pure reason and

physical determinism converge with human sciences from which man is virtually

eliminated.” (G. Thibau, Babel ou le vertige technique)


What up till now was considered an unassailable truth that man is a divine creation has

been replaced by a desiderate taken as truth that man is a creative divinity. The old

values and the concept of man have been discarded. In the light of new realities and

relationships, the experimenters crystallized the entire materialistic harvest of the last

centuries into a venom worthy of the concept which spawned it. It was necessary that

God be dethroned, and that in His stead man be exalted; not an actual man but a

hypothetical one, one existing only in the imagination of his creators. The divinization of

matter resulted in the confusion of man and matter, with man’s submission to matter. This

last conclusion permitted the experiment to be made without inhibitions.


When no difference is recognized between a piece of iron subjected to shaping and a

man subjected to psychological experimentation, the same working methods may be

applied both to iron and to man and the same desired result will be obtained. By virtue of

such reasoning, stripped of all human sentiment, it was possible to have toward man the

same attitude the sculptor has toward a piece of marble. He carves away to produce

from amorphous rock a model existing in his imagination. It does not matter if he is not

successful there is plenty of marble; and if the treatment applied to man is also

unsuccessful, again it does not matter of men there are more than enough.


One single thing may seem paradoxical that men have dared treat others of their own

kind as though they were unlike themselves. Those of whom I shall tell arbitrarily

considered themselves different from their fellow men and felt justified in subjecting them

to unprecedented treatment. They assumed for themselves the role of creator but denied

this to others, as if the latter were kneaded from a different and inferior matter. This was

possible because the normal sense of values had become so distorted that even the

experimenters themselves were not sure but that a deed conforming to the “principle”

today would not be declared tomorrow a crime and they be punished accordingly. But

until then, for them the crime was legal. What is worse, they even proclaimed it a salutary

act. They gave the torturer an educator’s certificate, and his victim, by virtue of the same

contorted logic, they accused of being an odious criminal.


What were the methods used and what were the results of this experimentation in which

the fashioning of a new kind of man was attempted, a man of whom even the most

primitive savages would be ashamed?


Only the simple facts can tell us. They, above all other considerations, remain irrefutable

proof of an era in which disdain for the human condition has reached its lowest level,

greatly exceeding anything thus far found in concentration camps.


This is a characteristic of the Twentieth Century, and the contribution of Soviet Russia to

the history of mankind, to the history of the nations she has been subjugating, that of

having given, through Communist methods, the name to this century: the “Century of








It was in 1951 that I had the first indications that something of a very disturbing nature

was taking place. This was exactly the time at which the experiment reached its paroxysm

in utmost secrecy. It was completely unknown to those who remained outside the

immediate circle of involvement.


I had been condemned, and was serving my sentence in the Aiud penitentiary when one

morning I was taken by two officers and transported to the Securitate[1] in Cluj without

being given any reason. My anxiety was only natural in a penitentiary regime in which

one could never know for certain whether or not his fate had been decided. I was

particularly disquieted now by the fact that I had engaged in no anti-Communist activity

in Cluj: I had never been there.


My first night in Cluj I spent in a vain attempt to adjust to a cell six and a half feet long and

two feet wide. The second night I was taken out into the searchroom and there I found

myself in the company of three other prisoners, who had been brought from the prison of

Gherla. I knew them. Two were students from Bucharest; the third was a worker.

Although we had been tried separately, the two students had been engaged in activities

connected with mine. We were placed in an automobile and taken to the depot. At eleven

that night we left for Bucharest on a fast express train, guarded by two Securitate

officers and a guard-sergeant. Bound in pairs by handcuffs, we were kept in a

compartment that was unlighted to prevent our being recognized by other travelers.


It was night. Now and then the moon shone through the car window lighting the faces of

the three. They were strange faces. I had passed through many prisons in Romania; I

had met thousands of prisoners, but never had my eyes rested on such faces. Beneath

the pallor common to all prisoners their faces reflected an exceptional physical

weakness. And over the emaciated faces a shadow of terror a fixed expression of terror

which stemmed from some uncommon experience gave all three a frightening

appearance. When, late in the night, the student who was handcuffed to me fell asleep

from exhaustion and rested his head on my shoulder, I could no longer suppress a

reaction to the fear that overcame me; I moved my shoulder to wake him up. His head,

illuminated by the light of the moon, appeared to be that of the corpse of one who had

died surprised by a horror so hideous that it had accompanied him into the world

beyond. In former times he had been a swimming champion and a man of courage.


Speech among ourselves was strictly forbidden. Every now and then our eyes met, and

there I could read the same terror that was impressed on their faces a terror akin to

madness. As we passed through Predeal, the worker, who sat opposite me, asked me

unexpectedly, “Your mother is a small dark-complexioned woman, is she not?” His

accurate description of my mother surprised me; he had never seen her for the simple

reason that she had never been in Romania.[2] I did not answer him.


Later he spoke to me again, but this time about another matter. “Have we passed

Pirinei?” “We are approaching Sinaia,” I answered, convinced though that he was not

hearing me and that he was present only in body.


The two students hardly spoke. In the morning we arrived in Bucharest. We were taken

into the depot’s police office which was an indication that we were to continue our trip.

Our escorts left us for a few moments. It was then that one of the two, the one shackled

to me, began to extol Communism! It seemed that what he had to say was directed to the

other two, not so much to convince as to demonstrate that he could correctly repeat a

learned lesson. And he seemed in a hurry to prevent the other two from being first. He

uttered the hackneyed meaningless words repeated by the Communists on all street

corners, but coming from his mouth they took on for me a profound significance. I was

amazed to hear him speak thus because I knew him well and knew how he had felt about

Communism. And it was generally true of all prisoners that life in prison tended to

strengthen the convictions we had held previously. And then he uttered a flagrant lie

claiming that there was decency in the officers of the Securitate.


Again at night we resumed our travel toward Constanta I recognized the railway line.

When the sergeant, a farmer from the Apuseni Mountains, asked with some hesitancy,

“Do you believe in God?” the same student hastened to answer that neither he nor any of

his acquaintances had ever believed in God. This statement came from one who, I knew

well, was educated in the Christian faith. This time again I read terror in his eyes. Again

he answered with the same haste as though to prevent a statement from someone else

that might be disastrous, and his eyes seemed to express the same desire for approval

by the other two prisoners. But they only looked into emptiness. The sergeant lowered his

head. He certainly had expected a different answer.


“Why were you arrested?” the other student was asked later by one of the Securitate

officers. “I was a member of a terroristic organization at the Faculty[3] of Letters in

Bucharest. I was so fanatical that during the interrogation I denounced no one not even

the greatest criminals in the group.” And then, as if feeling embarrassed (or “unmasked”

as I was later to learn) he endeavored to correct his statement “not even the most

responsible of the group, those who led the secret organization.” My bewilderment was

shared this time also by the two officers who, as myself, heard perhaps for the first time

from the mouth of a political prisoner such a characterization of his own activity. No one

could possibly answer my own unspoken questions. The other two were still staring into

nothingness. How could I suspect at that time everything they had gone through,

conditioning them to make statements of which, a few minutes earlier, I would not have

believed them capable?


Then we arrived. In the search room, taking advantage of a moment when the guards

were not present, I asked the oldest, “What position are you going to adopt during the

investigation?” “We must confess the whole truth. What’s the use of suffering torture now

that everything is lost? The Communists have won the game and are on the right track.” I

did not listen any further. His answer was a non-sequitur; I was trying to develop a

posture which would avoid implicating our friends in activities which had been a subject

of previous interrogations, and which we could anticipate would be again taken up in the

forthcoming questioning. But he was broken.


There followed the isolation, hunger and terror of the unending inquisition. Alone in my

cell, completely cut off from mankind except for my stone-faced investigators, I began to

forget the three. Every now and then the officers reminded me of them by reading

statements concerning matters of which only they and I had known. But my own

suffering did not allow me to dwell too long on this; it remained an ominous enigma that

troubled me from time to time.


Later on, in the summer of 1952 I again came into contact with individuals who reminded

me of the puzzle I had partly forgotten. Other prisoners, transferred from the forced labor

camps on the Danube-Black Sea Canal, brought news that increased my suspicions

regarding an entire category of prisoners who had once been most dedicated and most

faithful defenders of the nation’s freedom the student body. Accusations were brought

against them which to the unknowing observer seemed utterly revolting. And yet the men

who told me could not be lying. For they were speaking from experience, of what they

had themselves suffered. The “re-educated students,” they said, beat them, denounced

them, were spies for the secret police, increased the work norms, and tortured any who

could not meet them. All these were accusations of an enormous gravity. I wanted to

believe that because the majority of these men were simple and untutored they erred,

making generalizations on the basis of their own personal experience, for I had known

the students in a totally different light.


But further news, instead of refuting what I hoped was not true, actually confirmed

aspects which entered the domain of the tragic. This time it was a student who spoke to

me. I had known him in years past at the Polytechnical School in Bucharest. At first he

would not speak; he was afraid of everyone. But when I told him I came to Constanta

from Aiud where, up to a few months previously, nothing out of the ordinary had

happened, he loosened his tongue. It was from him that I found out for the first time

about the “unmaskings.” All the students who were at Pitesti passed through these

“unmaskings.” He told me it was impossible for him to explain, but that something

terrifying took place there. They were tortured in such a manner that all absolutely all

students became informers, so that they were robbed of their manly nature and became

simple robots in the hands of political officers. They were de-personalized.


“Who did the torturing?”


“The ‘re-educated’ ones.”


“Who were these ‘re-educated’ ones?”


“Other students who preceded us in ‘re-education’, in ‘unmasking’ as it is also called.”


“Who began that and where?”


“I know neither for sure, but I believe it to be a general phenomenon in all prisons. And

wherever it has not yet occurred, it will, sooner or later. It is said that the initiators were

three students from Iasi: Turcanu, Titus Leonida, and Prisacaru.”


He stayed a little longer in our cell, but he avoided talking any more. “If they ever hear I

have been talking, I am a man sentenced to death,” he whispered as he was taken out of

the cell.


A month later other acquaintances completely verified what had happened in the canal

labor compound. “Beware of the students as you would of Satan in person, even if they

come under a mask of friendship. They are perfidious. They have done a lot of evil and

some continue in their wrongdoing.”


“Why is it that everybody talks thus about students? What happened to them that they

became so depraved? For you know well that they were not like this before.”


“I do not know and I do not want to know what happened to them. I am telling you only

that they bite badly on the sly. Beware!” We did not know at that time and perhaps he is

still ignorant of the fact today that in the process of degradation, their souls were killed.

They had passed through hell.


I learned more from another youth who had passed through the Pitesti prison. He talked

to me about the “unmaskings” in a more precise manner. He mentioned students whom I

had known and what they had become after they passed through there dispirited,

broken, transformed individuals. But he could not explain through what kind of inner

crisis he himself had gone in order to reach that stage. The ordeal through which he

passed was, as he told it, a sequence of tortures truly unique as to length and depth. But

what he told me was still inadequate to permit me to fathom the depth of the

transformation of soul that had to take place to produce such results. His fragmentary

story brought to my mind another case of several years past which struck me as unique.


In February of 1951, on our way to Aiud, the group of prisoners, of which I was a

member, were lodged in transit at Pitesti, where we awaited the prison van in which we

were to be transported on the last leg of the trip. I was surprised by the thoroughness of

the search to which we were subjected there much more strict than the one at Jilava.

And Jilava was considered the toughest prison in the whole of Romania. Then followed a

rigid isolation. I could not see even a single face of another prisoner in the Pitesti prison.

Occasionally at night, but more often during the day, indistinct groans reached my ears

from beyond the wall separating us from the prison proper. I attributed them to the usual

tortures found in all prisons. On leaving, a young man from this prison was added to our

group. He was an engineer named Eugen Bolfosu. For the next two days, the time it took

us to reach Aiud, he spoke but rarely and then only in monosyllabic answers to my

questions. But on his face was imprinted the same terror I later read on the faces of my

travelling companions from Cluj. Having arrived at Aiud, during the search the engineer

was asked from whence he came. When he uttered the word “Pitesti”, he was

immediately isolated for several days. Later he was taken out, and I met him in the prison

shop. He would riot tell me the reason for his isolation. The Aiud political officers knew

what was happening in Pitesti, and the engineer dared not talk lest he suffer the

consequences. Or perhaps he was at that time a simple robot who acted only at the

command of the “politruks.”[4]


I asked the young man who had passed through Pitesti if he had met engineer Bolfosu

previously. He told me they had gone through the “unmaskings” together and that he also

had been sent to Aiud a little later, but that before leaving Pitesti they were specifically

warned by the prison director not to talk. An indiscretion could cost them a return to

Pitesti if unmaskings were not to be started at Aiud as well and thus a new passing

through the awful ordeal. Who could disregard that threat without his flesh trembling?


* * * * *


My detention in the cellars of the Securitate of Constanta ended in May 1953. Following

twenty months of inquisition I was sent to the Gherla prison to continue serving my

sentence. I arrived there on the morning of May 6. I was immediately isolated, but in an

hour or two another prisoner was introduced into the cell. He arrived from Bucharest,

where he had been taken for a supplementary investigation, from Gherla, a month

earlier. We knew each other. He asked me:


“Have you been here before?”


“No, this is my first time.”


“Beware of the students as you would of Satan. If you do not, you shall experience very

unpleasant surprises. And moreover, you will suffer much needlessly.”


“Why, sir, is this the case? What have the students done, or rather, what has been done

to them that they have reached such a state? You are not the first person to warn me.”


“Personally I cannot explain it to you. Something has happened to them which for me is

inexplicable. And I certainly know them, for it has not been long since I was a student

myself. I simply cannot understand the nature of the profound transformations which

were forcibly induced. I do know they were tortured; yet torture alone cannot account for

their behavior. All of us have passed through the hands of the Securitate and, after some

more or less serious lapses, we recovered. But the students persist on an infernal path. It

is said they went through ‘unmaskings’. What the ‘unmasking’ consisted of, only time and

perhaps the recovery of some students could explain to us. But I am wary, and that is

why I advise prudence.”


After fifteen days of quarantine, I was taken to the prison’s shop for work. They put me

on the night shift from six in the evening till six in the morning. The first prisoner I met

there, or rather, to whom I was introduced by a supervisor, was a former student of

philosophy. After he asked me the reasons for my condemnation and my place of origin

inevitable inquiries addressed to all newcomers in any prison he told me with an

impassive voice, while he avoided looking at me, “Beware of me! I am a student. And this

ought to tell you much. Beware not only of me but of all students, especially of those who

are your friends. They can hurt you much more because you cannot perceive behind

the mask each of us wears the vast abyss that now separates us from what we were not

too long ago or what we wanted to be.”


Here, then, was one of them, one of those “unmasked”, who put me on guard against

himself as well as against others like him or possibly worse. But for him to have done

this, there must have yet existed in his soul a vestige of dignity and courage. Did he

succeed in his comeback? Did he escape the catastrophe without a definitive mutilation?

This was a puzzle which I was only later to unravel.


“Why do you warn me? I have nothing to hide. I serve a sentence for the attitude I

adopted against the regime. What importance may details have? And why do you sound

a warning even against yourself?”


“Because, if the ‘unmaskings’ are going to be repeated, I will not be able to keep quiet

upon questioning, and I am afraid that you would talk before I do. An unconfessed detail

can cost one his life. For by now we have been brought to the point of fearing for our

lives. We have become more cowardly than you can imagine.”


I was afraid to pursue the discussion any further. Who could tell me that this was not a

subtle trap set for me into which I might let myself fall, the more easily deceived by his

frankness? I let the passing of time bring the facts to light. But with this student I made

friends rather quickly. Shortly afterwards the ice thawed completely, opening up an

exchange of communications without reservation. It was from him that I obtained the first

elements of an explanation. For he was, in spite of his youth, a thinker possessing a rare

power of analysis.


What happened there at Pitesti could not be described in simple terms. In this, as in

many other instances, language is inadequate to express all we want to say. For this

reason we often have the impression that something is missing from the whole story. This

void can be filled only by the voice of our own soul as we try to live in our imagination

what others have lived through in reality.


It is a profound drama touching the most delicate fibers of the human spirit, having

origins that transcend the material manifestations of the everyday conflict. Little by little

this drama became my overwhelming preoccupation. During the three years I remained

in prison and for two more after my release, until 1959, my preoccupation was to

penetrate as deeply as possible into the secrets of this phenomenon in order to

comprehend it. Investigating discreetly, gathering even the tiniest admissions and hints,

listening to the revelations of those who had been victims, only to become torturers

themselves later on, I came to comprehend the tragedy that had been consummated

within the prison walls of Romania, and to understand how a psychological experiment,

as novel as it was criminal and degrading, could, over a period of time transform

humanity into inhumanity. Several scores of students with whom I discussed what

happened to them and whose confessions of their own experiences and personal ruin I

heard, provided me with the basic information. The present work is a composite picture

of their tragedy. It has been written to call attention to the “Pitesti Phenomenon,” but is by

no means an effort to exhaust the subject.


As incomplete as it is for the magnitude of the subject exceeds the powers of any single

individual I bring this book as a witness to my brothers in exile so they may more clearly

visualize the hell unleashed over their fatherland and over all the countries engulfed by

the Soviet Empire. What happened in Romania could have happened probably did

happen in every other captive country, the authors and perpetrators of the terrors being

one and the same people in all lands.


This is a testimony from behind the curtain, from beyond the tomb. I leave to the victims

the right to judge.





       -The Bolshevik Secret Police in Romania took over the name of the Security Service

of Free Romania. (Translator’s Note)



       -Bacu lived in Macedonia, where he was born and received his secondary

education, going to Romania when he entered the University of Bucharest. (Tr.)



       -European universities are composed of faculties, which correspond roughly to the

colleges of American universities. The Faculty of Letters dealt with the classical and

modern languages and literatures and the other studies commonly called the Humanities.




       -Political bosses in a Communist regime. (Tr.)







The inauguration of the Communist regime in Romania was the result of historical

circumstances in which the Romanian people undoubtedly played the least important

role. Whether it was short-sightedness or self-interest that caused Communism’s advent

in Romania, has now become a question for history to answer; to search today for the

determinants of this tragedy is perhaps useless, or in any event merely academic. One

fact, however, is certain. The Romanians not only did not want such a regime, they did

not even dream that something like it was possible, because perhaps as in no other

European country no Communist Party had existed in pre-war Romania, not even a

Communist problem. The clandestine Communist organization, according to both its boss

and the files of the police, had a total of 820 members and almost half of those were

agents of the state police! I met many of them in prisons, sentenced after 1945 for

“crimes against humanity”!


The surprise which benumbed the nation at first, later gave way to anxiety. The public in

its entirety reacted from the start against Communist violence, which was initially

supported by the short-sightedness of political parties and adventurers, but later on only

by the Soviet battalions and secret police.


The downfall of the monarchy on Dec. 30, 1947 marked the starting point; it was the

signal for a Communist offensive on all fronts to destroy the foundations of the nation and

replace them with Soviet tyranny. This new state of affairs compelled the Romanian

citizen to choose between two alternatives; one being collaboration with the Communists,

offering honors, a life free from want, and high position; the other carrying the risk of

joblessness, incarceration in the cellars of the Securitate, or even loss of life itself.


Instinctively or deliberately, the great majority chose the second, even though they could

not influence the course of events in their favor. The fight was so tragically unequal. On

the one side we have the live organism of Communism, perfectly disciplined, with

strategy perfected over three decades of subjugating the Russian people. This force was

small in number, to be sure, but the stakes were high, and knowing the risks, it was not

disposed to make any concessions that might weaken its position as victor or “jeopardize

its legal status.” It was in fact a foreign body determined to embed its fangs in the

arteries of the Romanian nation.


On the other side of the conflict we have an organically unblended community,

discouraged by the loss of a war, with the feeling of an unjust defeat yet in its heart, and

aware that it had been left to make the best of things by its own means the attitude of the

Westerners being more than manifestly one of disinterest in what happened in Romania.

In view of this unfavorable attitude of the Western powers, and because of a lack of

leadership to channel its efforts toward a possible and advantageous solution, a mass

reaction was impossible. To this, one could also add not too small a dose of naivete,

especially among politicians, who many times believed the opposite of the obvious. They

believed, for example, that the Communist occupation and the imposed regime were but

transitory stages and that sooner or later everything was going to revert to normal,

without the slightest effort on their part. While the people’s zeal was being wasted in

fruitless effort, the Communist Party was winning victory after victory, and the politicians

were making deals behind-the-scenes or forming tentative governments in anticipation of

the arrival of the Americans!


In the face of the new events, one observed a change in the make-up of the populace.

To the ranks of several hundred Communist conspirators and their international brethren

was gradually added a stratum of individuals of uncertain background, in large part

roustabouts and creatures from the more degraded and contemptible sectors of

humanity. To these were added in quite large numbers members of the minority groups

who were now installed in government jobs, most of the time without having the slightest

competence. Contrary to the professed principles of “class struggle,” the Communists

that were brought in from the Soviet Union (Ana Pauker, Bodnarenco, Chisinevski,

Tescovici, Moscovici, et al.,) encouraged ethnical dissension and the centrifugal

tendencies of national minorities, thus arousing and exploiting strongly anti-Romanian

sentiments by favoring non-Romanians for admission into Party membership and

appointment to low-echelon administrative positions.


On the “counter-revolutionary” front stood the flower of the Romanian nation, with the

front ranks occupied by students and young intellectuals, mostly of peasant or

middle-class origin. The young people had been anti-Communist for years prior to the

direct confrontation with the invaders for the Russians have always been looked upon as

such possibly because of the national instinct, or their education, or a natural pride. The

reasons for this anti-Communist posture are as various as are the forms taken

throughout the whole anti-Communist struggle.


Confronted by this situation, the Communists adopted measures which they deemed

appropriate. Completely disregarding all principles of social ethics, human decency, and

the Peace Treaty of Paris, which supposedly guaranteed freedom of speech, they

unleashed a wave of arrests. Every social stratum of Romania contributed its share of

victims, but the hardest hit were the students. How many of them passed under the

“protection” of the police, one cannot tell. From 1948, then, until the present time, violent

repression of discontent has continued, its intensity depending on the perspicacity of the

Securitate’s informers or on increase or decrease of the people’s resignation to their

fate. For manner and magnitude, the arrests of the night of May 14/15, 1948 remain

memorable. For on that one night, in the three most important university centers

(Bucharest, Iasi and Cluj) no fewer than 1,000 students were arrested. This figure

represents about 2% of all students at the time.


The methods of torture most commonly used by the Communist Secret Police were freely

applied in the interrogation of prisoners. For months, the military tribunals pronounced

sentences prepared by the Ministry of the Interior in advance of the “trials”, either behind

closed doors or in public for the benefit of journalists and Party activists. Sentences

ranged from hard labor for life down to five years’ imprisonment. Sentences of only two

or three years were extremely rare and given only where there was no evidence at all

against the accused.


Using a method long practiced in the U.S.S.R., that of segregating prisoners according

to their professional background and intellectual capacity, the Communists in Romania

grouped the students in a category apart from the others, and designated as their place

for detention the prison at Pitesti. This measure served another purpose, also that of

preventing them from exercising their influence (which was considerable) over the great

number of peasants and workers who continually swelled the ranks of political prisoners.

The influence of the students in Romanian society after the Second World War was as

great as it had been before the war.


One single fact is worthy of note here. Among the large numbers of arrested students,

hardly any were of minority origin! The “class struggle” theory here was undeniably

violated. According to the theory, of course, the enemies of Communism would have

included large numbers of the foreign ethnic groups that enjoyed a favored economic

position prior to the takeover and had presumably suffered correspondingly great

economic losses with the liquidation of “capitalism.”


Also it is worth noting that, just as the wealthy resident aliens had aroused no

apprehension in the Communist rulers, so the sons of rich Romanians were

conspicuously lacking among the students arrested. The basis for this remarkable

discrimination may lie in a conflict between two worlds based on motives entirely other

than those taught in Communist classes in Marxism-Leninism and in the “history” of the

Party and the working-class.


During the trials, sometimes relatives of the accused were permitted to see him once

more, but after sentence was pronounced, the doors were locked behind him, and tight

secrecy deprived the family of all news of him, until he was released if ever he was.

Oftentimes prisoners had been dead for years while the family waited and waited at

home for news, hoping that after 10 or 20 years they might be re-united with the loved

one who had disappeared. It was to be expected that such rigorous secrecy would

prevent leakage outside the prison walls of any report or even rumor of the crimes

committed within.







When the wholesale arrests of students began, the Moldavian region was one of the

hardest hit. Since the university in Iasi, Moldavia’s capital, had for a long time been a

major center of all student movements of nationalistic character, an extremely large

number of students in the Faculties of Letters, Law, and Medicine of that university were

immediately seized and confined. The former Suceava Fort outside the town was used as

the place of temporary imprisonment for these students, inasmuch as both the

Securitate’s investigating offices and the trial chambers were within the fort, so the

prisoners could be produced at a moment’s notice by the penitentiary officials. Living

conditions in the fort (later transformed into a disciplinary prison) were considered

among the most severe of all the prisons of Romania, excepting perhaps only Jilava. To

the inhuman treatment and indescribable sanitary conditions (the fort is permanently

humid and without sunlight for most of the day) was added psychological terror produced

by the presence of inquisitors who were notorious for their sadism and their cruelty in

torturing prisoners. One of these officers was the Commissar Pompilian, whom the

Communists had inherited from the old regime; another was a certain Fischer from

somewhere in the vicinity of Iasi, where he had been a small shopkeeper until he was

transformed into a police officer overnight.


Ostensibly for administrative reasons, but in reality to prepare for the coming experiment,

the Moldavian students were kept in this fort for quite some time, even after their trials,

and were only later transported to Pitesti.


Among them must be mentioned one, Turcanu, a student of law originally from around

Radauti, who from the very first played the leading role in the tragedy. Turcanu had been

a member of the Communist Party in Iasi; after his record had been verified by the

Soviet occupation of Romania, he was assigned to lead a “voluntary” team, part of an

“international working brigade”, on a railway construction project in Bulgaria. After

completing this probationary work to the satisfaction of his masters, he was sent to a

school of Communist diplomacy and destined for a diplomatic post abroad. Then,

ostensibly, his brilliant prospects were shattered by a sudden arrest.


The reasons for his trial and subsequent imprisonment at Suceava are obscure. While a

high school student, he knew that some of his classmates were members of an

anti-Communist organization, with which, it was said, he had sympathized or even

associated himself.


Later at college he continued to maintain friendly relations with those former classmates

in high school who were now his fellow students in Iasi, and were continuing

clandestinely their fight against Communism. Whether Turcanu came to the university as

a Communist or joined the apparatus there, his superiors must have known at the time

that he was maintaining his acquaintance with the unsuspecting anti-Communists, but

that fact was “discovered” while the Communists were preparing him for a diplomatic

career and provided the legal pretext for a formal trial at which Turcanu was sentenced to

seven years in correctional prison for “conspiracy.” The real reason for sending him to

prison was a subtle one. He was considered by the Communists to be sufficiently reliable

to become their principal instrument in the initial phases of their experiment.


It is significant that both before the beginning of “political re-education” at Suceava as

well as throughout the experiment, Turcanu kept in direct and constant touch with

individuals who were not members of the Securitate’s inquisitorial staff at the prisons.

These individuals, who usually came from the Ministry of the Interior in Bucharest, must

have been of superior rank to those stationed in the prisons.


From his first days in the prison, Turcanu began to apply a plan previously formulated by

the officers of the Securitate, who were themselves no more than instruments in the

hands of their masters.


The initial phase of the plan consisted of a campaign of so-called “re-education” of the

students a process calculated to “integrate” the students into the Communist society; in

other words, forced political indoctrination.


From the beginning, Turcanu had as close collaborator the college student Titus Leonida,

also from the northern part of Moldavia, as well as another youth, Bogdanovici, who had

been still in high school.


The first step was the completion of statistical tables showing the origin of those

imprisoned at Suceava, their property, education, political affiliations, and other items of

personal information. The purpose of these statistics was to show that the great majority

of students were merely victims of the bourgeois reactionary education and that,

considering their social status, or “social class” as Communists say, their place was not

in the ranks of those opposing “Socialism” but, on the contrary, alongside the

Communists. If for reasons of opportunism, some peasants went along at the beginning

of this indoctrination, the great majority of the university students reacted against the

“re-education” propaganda with so firm a rejection that no doubt was left in the minds of

the “teachers” that such methods were futile. Neither promises of liberation from prison

as a reward for “re-education”, nor promises that they would be given holdings from the

land that had been taken for distribution to the peasants could shake the convictions of

the prisoners. They knew the realities of Communist rule too well to degrade themselves

by playing in such a farce.


To the lectures based on Communist pamphlets which political officers placed at the

disposal of Turcanu and his accomplices, the students responded with ridicule and

mockery. The Communist songs in “meetings of political re-education” were turned into

improvised parodies so clever and devastating that after a time the political officers

forbade Turcanu to allow singing at all.


Practically speaking, the “re-education” period at Suceava ended in failure, and

Turcanu’s activity was suspended when the prisoners were at last transferred from

Suceava. That preliminary phase had been designed simply to test the “fanaticism” of

those who were thus selected for the real experiment that was to begin at Pitesti.


Since they came from the same region, many of the students at Suceava had been

acquainted even before they entered the university and most of them knew one another,

so contacts were easily kept. At Pitesti, however, they were mingled with hundreds of

students from all the other universities of Romania.


The various groups thus assembled at Pitesti were of quite diverse social backgrounds

and political principles. The great majority of them were either Legionaries,[1] or

members of the National Peasant Party; a few were members of the Liberal Party, and

there were several groups united only by their loyalty to the monarchy. There was also a

goodly number of small groups, lacking a clearly stated political position the so-called

“mushroom” organizations likened to the growth of mushrooms following a rain. The

proliferation of such groups was a consequence of the climate created by the

Communist Party itself. These groups also differed among themselves in the degree of

their dedication to the anti-Communist cause the criterion, incidentally, by which the

“dangerousness” of the accused was judged, and the basis on which the Communist

Securitate determined his punishment. Thus it was possible that for one and the same

offense the sentence could be five, or twenty-five, years, depending upon the

investigating officer’s own estimate of the degree of the victim’s “fanaticism.”


The regimen of detention at Pitesti was very severe. In the world outside the prison

nothing was known of what was taking place within the walls. The Communists brazenly

called the Pitesti prison “The Center for Student Re-education,” a clever title which

actually did tell the truth, but ambiguously, the man in the street understanding one thing

by “re-education,” and those who were implementing it, another. Rumors whose origin

could not be traced, but which certainly emanated from the Ministry of the Interior, were

designed to create the impression that the lives of students were not endangered; that on

the contrary, truly humane conditions were created for them; that in addition to decent

food, they had at their disposal lecture halls, movies, courses of professional

readjustment, entertainment, and other privileges. Since there were no other sources of

information, people somehow began to believe these rumors, particularly the parents of

the prisoners who hoped against hope that they might soon see their sons again; but this

hope was illusory.


The prison at Pitesti was relatively new as compared to other prisons in Romania. Built

by King Carol’s regime, it was meant to shelter dangerous common criminals.

Transformed into a political prison by Antonescu in 1941, it reverted to its original

purpose after 1944. In 1947-48[2] it was used for the first time by Communists as an

internment center for the National-Peasant Congressmen arrested for their

anti-Communist attitude in Parliament. A little later it was called the “Center for Student

Re-education,” under which name it was operated until 1951.


Situated to the northwest, outside the town limits, close to a small river and far from any

dwelling, it was a location almost ideal for torture, since no scream from within its walls

could be heard by outsiders.


In this “Center,” ideal for experimentation, were brought together all students arrested up

to the fall of 1948. They were divided into four categories according to the classifications

given when sentenced.


Category I consisted of students “retained” without even a pretense of legality, on the

simple basis of their political sympathies; for lack of proof of any offenses they could not

be convicted of anything. This did not prevent, however, their imprisonment for as much

as six or seven years!


Category II consisted of those sentenced to “correctional” prison terms for minor

offenses: sheltering persons suspected of anti-Communist sentiments, or failure to

denounce them; favoritism, membership in the Communist Party without activity on its

behalf, or simply suspicion based on some reported statement! Most of these had no

political orientation and were victims of their own refractoriness, of special

circumstances, or of the “subversive” organizations fabricated by the Ministry of the

Interior to keep its spies and agents busy and to force the Communist cadres to be

perpetually vigilant for signs and dissatisfaction or “deviationism.” The sentences of those

in this category varied from three to five years of “correctional” imprisonment.


Category III consisted of individuals condemned, with some legal justification, for

offenses classified as “plotting against the social order.” These received sentences of

from eight to fifteen years of imprisonment under a severe regimen. The greatest number

of students fell into this category, which contained those whose activity was discovered

but not in all cases confessed.


Those in category IV were sentenced to from ten to twenty-five years hard labor. They

were fewer than in category III. Here one found group leaders, men who had been

charged with special assignments, individuals of the student world having an unusual

influence over those around them, and members of groups that were thought to be

prepared for armed resistance.


In theory, this was the classification according to the gravity of the offense that is

practiced in prisons all over the world. But in practice, this classification and segregation

served to isolate the categories from one another, isolating the less “contaminated” from

the “fanatics.” Thus separated, the “minor” categories, deprived of their former leaders,

were less able to resist the pressures to which they were subjected. This was especially

true in the second category, which contained a large number of unstable individuals who

were somehow predisposed to submit more or less easily or, at worst, to offer less



Until the beginning of 1949, prisoners in the first three categories were allowed to

correspond with their families. once a month they were permitted to write and receive a

few censored lines and a food package of three to five kilograms according to their

category. Those in category IV were excluded from both privileges.


The food given prisoners was very poor. While a minimum of 1800 calories was officially

specified by the administration, the food actually given to students, as to all other

prisoners in Communist Romania, was normally limited to 700-800 calories, although on

very rare occasions as much as 1000 was given. Within a few weeks following arrest,

the effects of this substandard diet, aggravated by punishments inflicted mercilessly,

could be seen very clearly. All, especially the sick, became so physically weak that,

when not coerced, they would commonly spend hours on end in almost total immobility to

avoid using energy. Thus, for those fortunate enough to receive them, packages of food

from the outside were the most precious of gifts.


Medical assistance in the prison was practically nonexistent. It was limited either to

dispensing an aspirin, irrespective of the ailment, or to strychnine shots for those whose

nerves were shattered, a mere token treatment, and usually the number of injections was

limited to from two to four.


During this preliminary period, the prisoners of the first three categories, who could

receive monthly packages of food from their families, devised an ingenious system to

help the prisoners of the fourth category, who, sentenced to hard labor, were denied all

communication with the outside. The latter were incarcerated on the top floor of the

building. Thus the prisoners below, by having a rope lowered from the windows above,

could send up small quantities of food, especially to the sick and infirm. This was done,

however, at great risk, for those caught were sent to “cazinca” a special room in the

prison’s cellar full of dirt, with walls permanently dripping with moisture. The prisoner was

stripped down to a minimum of clothing and left without food for a period of time that

depended on the whims of the warden or political officer and which usually was in direct

proportion to the degree of “fanaticism” of the prisoner. And as the “cazinca” never

lacked for prisoners, an increase in the number of tuberculosis cases was soon



It was under these conditions that the Ministry of the Interior, after the preliminaries were

judged adequate, decided to begin the real experiment. Food packages and

correspondence with the outside were permanently discontinued. The guards’ terrorism

increased in intensity. Torturings in the prison basement increased in frequency,

oftentimes for reasons patently trumped up. Threats, with mysterious meanings implied,

frequent visits of the warden and political officers to the cells, unexpected searches at all

hours of day and night, and prohibition of every kind of activity under stiff penalty, were

signs of fast-approaching changes.


* * * * *


The group from Suceava, accompanied by Turcanu, had recently arrived at Pitesti.

Within the small circle of advocates of “re-education” at Suceava, a schism had

occurred. Bogdanovici son of the prefect of Iasi County who had threatened to disclaim

him and deprive him of his name if he refused re-education continued to champion a

system of re-education by persuasion, limited to Communist ideological lectures and

study of printed brochures supplied by the prison administration. He later confessed, just

before he was executed, that his aim was to limit brainwashing to theoretical discussions

and thus, by averting brutality, protect the students from compromising themselves; he

hoped, he said, to deceive the organizers of the experiment and to tergiversate in

anticipation of possible liberation.


On the other hand Turcanu and Titus Leonida professed the necessity of a system of

“re-education by force”, a system which by its very nature was elastic and unrestricted,

and which permitted any means for attaining its objective. It is, of course, understood

that no decision concerning the means to be employed could have been made without a

formal order from the prison’s administration. The proposal to use physical means was

much more complicated than the Bogdanovici approach, for its purpose was not simply

torture in order to elicit true or even fictitious confessions from individuals; its avowed

purpose was to change the convictions of one thousand students hostile to the

Communist regime. Turcanu and his collaborators would not have dared even to think of

doing such a thing without knowing in advance that they had the total support of the

Securitate and thus of the Communist Party, and it is not likely that they did more than

pretend to advocate as their own a procedure they had been instructed to use.


Just before he began to implement the “re-education by force,” Turcanu, we learned,

had been visited several times by emissaries from the Ministry of the Interior, with whom

he held private discussions for hours on end.[3] Also, he himself was absent from Pitesti

for days, and no one knew whither he had gone or for what purpose. What was the

subject of his discussions and what promises he received could not be learned even by

his closest collaborators. Once the tragedy began to unfold, his role appeared clearly

and hideously. He was a simple agent carrying out an assigned mission.


The first act was the formation among the prisoners of an ostensibly spontaneous and

voluntary organization known as “the Organization of Detainees of Communist

Convictions.”[4] It was obvious that this organization was officially approved: its members

claimed to be Party members, and their actions were to be for the “benefit of the working

class.” The organization being thus established, the process of implementing the

instructions given by the Securitate was begun.





       -I.e., The Legion of St. Michael the Archangel, which was undoubtedly the

strongest, most resolute, and most devoted anti-Communist and nationalist organization

in Romania. (Tr.)



       -Until they deposed young King Michael (Mihai) on December 30, 1947, the Soviet

maintained a pretense that their occupation of Romania was merely temporary, pending

the conclusion of a treaty with Austria, and accordingly the full rigor of Bolshevik rule

was not applied to Romania until 1948. (Tr.)



       -[It may be well to remind the reader at this juncture that the primary function of the

Ministry of Interior in Romania has always been exercise of the police power of the state,

officially to maintain internal security, and also, under King Carol, to thwart and paralyze

the political opposition. The nearest analogue in the United States is the office of the

Attorney General (to which the F.B.I. is subject), and one can imagine the power of that

department, if it had direct jurisdiction over all the state, county, and municipal police

forces in the nation. When the Bolsheviks took over, they found ready for their own use

a highly centralized government with a powerful police system, and they needed only to

replace the Romanian officials with domestic traitors and imported alien terrorists. Editor]



       -Hereafter referred to as O.D.C.C. (Tr.)