On the northern edge of the prison building, on the ground floor, there is a room bearing

the number 4. Initially it was meant for the sick; that is why it retained the name and was

known to the prisoners as “Hospital Room Four.” This room, fairly large, was selected for

beginning the experiment for it was secluded from the cells in which the students were



Here is the description of what happened there given to me by a student who was among

the first victims.


“One evening we were taken from a ground-floor cell, where we had spent some time,

and walked to Hospital Room Four. We were about ten students, all from ‘correction’.[1]

In Room Four we found another group of students already there about twenty including

Turcanu and Titus Leonida. We suspected nothing untoward, for transfer of prisoners

from one room to another was quite frequent and had become almost routine. After six

o’clock, the time at which the cells of the prison were normally secured for the night,

Turcanu stood up and menacingly posting himself in front of us, began to talk.


“‘We, a group of detained students,’ he said, ‘decided to rehabilitate ourselves in the

eyes of the workers’ regime, for we realize that what we did was against the interests of

the working people and Party. We consider that you are an obstacle to our desired

rehabilitation because of your “anti-workers” attitude. That is why we request you to

renounce your previous convictions and to join our group. If you will not do this in a

normal manner, we will use against you all means at our disposal. We are determined to

carry out the action to its end and will crush any resistance.’


“As I was unfamiliar with what had happened in Suceava, at first I thought this was a joke

in bad taste. I had never heard such an impertinence, not even from the most fanatical

men of the prison administration. I never was one of the ‘strong’ ones, and to this day I

cannot understand why I was selected among the first ones to be worked on. You can

imagine the answer I gave together with all those who had been brought with me into

Room Four by the chief of our section. A sane man, we thought, could not utter such

stupidities. So we took his speech as a joke, and began to jest.


“Turcanu expected such a reaction, for he knew quite well the student mentality and

convictions. That is why he was prepared. All those who were with him in the room when

we arrived, remained quiet, waiting. All of them had handy, hidden under the nearby

bunk blankets, a bludgeon, cudgel, post, belt, or board, supplied naturally by the

administration, for it would have been impossible for anyone to procure them otherwise.


“Our reply gave Turcanu the opportunity to start. He furiously raised his cap, and then at

once, at that signal, the bludgeons and cudgels were brought out from under the

blankets. Every one of them was armed and, without warning, struck the one of us

nearest him. As a matter of fact they had so placed themselves by prearrangement that

each had a victim handy. Taken by surprise, we were confused. But we came to our

senses immediately and began to defend ourselves each as best he could. In

desperation, we started to attack. We were at an advantage, in fact, for we were

defending our own skins while the others struck by command. As they later admitted,

they really had not expected that matters would go so far. We began to disarm them. In

the room one could hear only the whacks of the bludgeons and the groans of those

stricken. In the confusion one could not distinguish the original groups. All were striking

to defend themselves, and the fight turned into a life and death struggle, in which each

man fought furiously to overcome his antagonist. After a while the situation became less

confused. Although they were twenty against our ten, all those who had attacked us were

sprawled on the floor, Turcanu included. This was definitely not what the devisers of the

experiment had expected, so intervention was needed to prove to us that all opposition

was vain.


“During the entire fight the warden, Lieutenant Dumitrescu, had watched through the

peephole in the door. When he realized that Turcanu and his minions had been worsted,

he brusquely opened the door, and, surrounded by some twenty prison guards, his

leading subordinates and officers of the Securitate, he entered the room. All were armed

with cudgels, even the warden. Silence ensued. Only a muffled groan could be heard

now and then. The director ordered everyone to stay where he was. Then followed a

dialogue between the director and Turcanu.


“‘What is happening here, you bandits?’ (The term ‘bandit’ was the epithet with which

prisoners were addressed by the prison administrators). Turcanu took a step forward

and replied:


“‘Sir, we, a group of students, realizing that we had sinned against the working class,

opposing its well being and that of the people, decided to rehabilitate ourselves in the

eyes of the Party. We therefore considered it necessary to respect the wishes of the

prison administration, to do all that is asked of us, and to re-educate ourselves in a

Marxist spirit, in order to shorten the period of our detention, and to be of use to the

working class after our release. But when we began to discuss our intentions, the bandits

who are here with us sprang upon us with their concealed bludgeons and tried to kill us.

We defended ourselves as best we could. We therefore beg the administration to protect

us from these criminals and to ensure our lives and safety.’


“There followed several exchanges of questions and answers in which the warden,

simulating astonishment, asked Turcanu for further explanations. Then he turned

brusquely to us and said: ‘So that’s it, bandits’?


“That was all! At his signal the guards all attacked us, while Turcanu’s group quickly

slipping around behind the warden, left our group fully exposed.


“Who could raise his hand against a uniformed official? We were already bruised and

exhausted, and we well knew that such resistance meant immediate shooting.


“There followed a terrible scene, lasting unbelievably for several hours, during which one

could hear only the thwacks of the bludgeons, the groans of the sufferers, and the

profanity of the warden and his henchmen. Turcanu’s group helped the guards every

now and then, when some unfortunate managed to separate himself from the group of

those beaten, and tried futilely to find a hiding place. The guards dealt their blows with all

the viciousness they could muster, venting their spite on us for having defied them



“Weakened by our designedly inadequate diet, overwhelmed by the number and force of

the guards as well as by the authority they represented, little by little we ceased our futile

but still instinctive efforts to avoid the blows. By now the guards struck us as they would

so many empty sacks. The floor was full of urine and blood. Prostrate and exhausted by

beating, our bodies were strewn on the floor like corpses on a battlefield. Finally, the

guards left the room. We thought it was all finished. But this was only the beginning!

Turcanu’s group took over. We were subjected to an extremely minute bodily search.

Everything that might constitute a protection, even in imagination, was taken from us.

Only our clothing was left us. We were ordered to crawl under the large common bed.

Those who could not move, were dragged by the ‘re-educators’ under whose dominion

we would be thenceforth. Many among those who followed Turcanu deplored what was

happening. But the spectacle of what took place and the alternative of seeing themselves

in our shoes compelled them to continue in the ways of dishonor. They had not believed

that things would reach that stage. Once engaged in the dirty game, however, they could

not turn back because between them and us there now existed a real abyss. But that was

only for a time. Several months later I myself did to others what had been done to me.


“The plan had been elaborated down to the last detail. It was applied on an ever

increasing scale as new participants were trained. What happened in ‘Hospital Room

Four’ was repeated hundreds of times in other cells, with only slight variations.


“Immediately after the beating, we were subjected to the ‘unmasking’.”


* * * * *


What the Communist Party perpetrated in the prisons of Romania belongs to the domain

of pathological psychology. According to the Communist mentality, it was simply a job

like any other, which had to be successfully concluded, regardless. Human nature, moral

or social considerations could not hinder the progress of an important experiment.


In all this tragedy, Turcanu was but an actor, playing under the direction of those who

had designed the experiment and watched it from beyond the footlights with interest and

pleasure. And his original collaborators, who hoped to benefit by an earlier release from

prison, were only instruments in his hand.


What deters persons of criminal tendencies in normal society is, no doubt, the fear of

punishment by the legal justice that maintains social equilibrium. Such were the

conditions at Pitesti that Turcanu was assured that he would never be called to account,

no matter how many acts of bestiality he might commit, because the very authorities who

were supposed to defend prisoners from violence by their fellows, had ordered and

implemented the sinister plan that cost the lives of so many students and caused the

moral ruin of all the others.


Probably Turcanu himself did not realize at first how far he was expected to go. He could

not have devised the operation himself. Its diabolical subtlety and ingenuity lay far

beyond his own capabilities. He was only capable of doing what he was told. Those who

masterminded and directed the operation wanted more than mere torturing of the victims.

They were determined to penetrate into the most intimate recesses of the human soul,

probing and prodding it, finding even the smallest cleavages, discovering everything that

can be struck, broken, destroyed in man to leave him only a body made passive and void

of volition.


Beasts kill out of biological necessity to feed. But the beast-man when he uses reason to

implement his hatred, knows no limit. Only men capable of both great lucidity and

frenzied hate could have decreed Pitesti. That seems paradoxical, but in the Communist

world the paradoxical becomes normal. If Turcanu is responsible for physical tortures

(for which, as a matter of fact, he later paid), it is others who must answer for the entire

process of destruction. The list of names is long. And it begins with those who destroy

the values within man, who destroyed his equilibrium without substituting anything in its

place. The vacuum gave birth to the disorientation. And this disorientation unleashed the






       -I.e., From the second category described in the preceding chapter. (Tr.)







The initiators of the experiment already knew very well not only the structure of the

Romanian soul but also how the particular youths selected for experimentation had been

educated in school, at home, and especially in the organization to which they were

ideologically devoted before their arrest.


Their complete breakdown could therefore be accomplished only by systematically

destroying everything that constituted the firm anchorage of their lives and thoughts; in

other words, by cutting them loose from their moorings. And because Christianity, the

diametrical opposite to materialism, has always offered the most effective system for

living, and because the majority of students arrested were condemned for activity

inspired by the Legion of St. Michael the Archangel, the approach of the “re-educators”

was to attack precisely those values on which the Christian ethic is based. By destroying

these, they could destroy the very reason the youths chose to go to prison rather than

compromise their principles.


Investigations conducted in the Ministry of the Interior and in various regional

Securitates, managed to wrest quite a few secrets from the students, not so much

because of moral weakness as by means of brutal methods of interrogation. These were

such that it was almost impossible for a student to deny an offense even if he had

committed none; he admitted the crime to avoid further torture. But even though the

Securitate did succeed in tearing secrets from tortured minds, it was unable to affect the

structure of the soul. On the contrary, having passed through these investigations, the

students came out more convinced than ever of the righteousness of the cause for which

they were suffering, and of the absurdity of the newly imposed system. As long, then, as

the soul remained unaltered, there had been no defeat. So it was precisely the soul that

remained the principal target, its utter destruction, the aim.


* * * * *


The Romanian people and their faith appeared in history at no determined date, but the

Romanian soul is organically commingled with Christianity, perhaps because they were

born together, as witness Romania’s historical chronicles over several centuries and all

the crosses, called troite set up at nearly all crossroads in the countryside. Since the

Romanian has traditionally put all his hopes in God when trials confronted him, the

peasants’ sons, now students, turned to God for help in the most trying time of their lives.

A prayer murmured from the depths of one’s soul by trembling lips was often more

satisfying than bread. Though it is often said that faith is inversely proportional to the

degree of education, exactly the opposite was found in Romania’s prisons. Those whose

belief was strongest, who felt the greatest need to pray, were definitely the best

educated, irrespective of their political affiliation, including even the most materialistic

socialists, who discovered the closeness of God, in prison, where only true faith could fill

the void of their lives.


The Communists recognized this fact and decided to strike from the beginning with all

fury, aiming to produce despair and despondency until this faith was destroyed. Thus

could they render ineffective the twin pillars of Romanian patriotism: Christian moral

precepts, and tradition.


Everything of the past which could offer any kind of refuge was to be muddied and

denigrated. This included the heroes of history and the folklore of Christian inspiration.

Then, to be given special attention, was the destruction of love for family, in order

completely to isolate the victim in his own misery, bereft of religion, love of country, and

family. This would break the chain that links together a community of national thought and

gives meaning to a national struggle. When the individual was thus cut off from his

history, faith and family, the ultimate step in “re-educating” him was to destroy his

existence as a personality an individual. This, to the victim, was to prove the most painful

step of all and was called his “unmasking.”


These, then, were the main objectives of the experiment launched at Pitesti Prison by

which the “re-educators” hoped to produce in the end “the new man,” de-personalized, a

robot which they could manipulate.


The preparations necessary for initiating the last cruel step, the “unmasking,” were

probably patterned after methods explained in a book by a Russian lawyer who, arrested

and tortured after confessing everything, wrote it for the benefit of his interrogators. It is

rumored that this happened during the first investigations carried out by the Communist

police after the capture of Russia. In the book, the author used himself as an example,

searching his own soul, and succeeded in placing at the disposal of his torturers a

psychological treatise of overwhelming importance. Analyzing himself, he discovered the

weak points in man, the most vulnerable ones, through which an ultimate breakdown can

be achieved.


The weaknesses, or “cracks” as he calls them in his book, are hunger, psychological

terror, endless uncertainty, and total isolation. Months of undernourishment, therefore,

which our student prisoners had already endured, laid the groundwork quite well for what

was to follow.


There you have the prerequisites for applying the “unmasking” technique. Practically

speaking, it consisted of two distinct phases, the outer and the inner unmasking. The first

was but an intensification of Communist Securitate’s usual investigative methods involving

not only some torture but much that was grotesque and irrational. But the second, the

“inner unmasking,” which was to result in the final breakdown, was the one that received

the greatest attention from the experts.


The first phase carried to completion the secret police’s earlier investigations through a

torturing system whereby they sought to squeeze a man into the position of declaring all,

but absolutely all, that he had done or intended to do prior to his arrest. He had to name

and denounce all persons he had been in contact with, all who helped him with money or

food, advice or moral encouragement; all who had sheltered him; all who knew of his

activities even if they did not participate in them; all who did not sympathize with the

Communist regime; all whom he suspected of having infiltrated the Party or having joined

it opportunistically; anybody who seemed likely later to engage in anti-Party activity;

maligners of the Party; etc. Then he had to tell whether he had any ideological material

books, documents, newspapers, circulars, etc. which he had not declared during earlier

questioning; where they were hidden; who else knew of their existence; whether he

possessed firearms; if so, where hidden. Particular emphasis was placed on firearms,

especially those stored away by peasants as the German troops retreated in 1944; and

on any individuals of the “people’s army” who might later, through bribery or corruption,

place at the disposal of the “enemies of the people” weapons or anything else that could

be used against the Party.


The oral declarations were first demanded from the victims, were then inscribed on soap

plaques, verified and attested by a member of the “re-education committee” (or by

Turcanu himself, if the case seemed a bit interesting), and were finally put on paper,

signed by the declarant, and sent to special officers of the Ministry of the Interior, who

proceeded, as soon as possible after screening the information, to arrest the persons

“denounced” in the declaration. Also as part of this outer unmasking, the student, if he

had been transferred from another prison, had to detail his activities there as well as give

a detailed account of his activities after arriving at Pitesti.


During the first months of their imprisonment, before Turcanu began his work, students

had been allowed a modicum of freedom, being supervised more or less superficially by

the guards, and had organized their free time for their own benefit. Not having books or

writing materials, not even pencil and paper (it was dangerous to be found possessing

these), students discovered anew the Roman stylus, using soap tablets instead of wax

ones. It was on these little tablets that all writing was done. In the absence of books,

courses in foreign languages were pursued, also in advanced mathematics, chemistry

and other subjects as remembered from student days. Discussions proved to be quite

fruitful, especially among those who had studied philosophy, literature, law, and theology,

many aspects of Romania’s spiritual life as well as problems of sociology and

philosophical orientation. All this was condoned by the Communists, who considered it a

matter of adjusting to life inside a prison; but if they detected, under cover of these

educational sessions, any sort of political activity, the punishment was more severe than

for similar activity outside.


Nevertheless, there was no lack of discussion of a purely political character among

students of different convictions. Through these talks they came to know one another

better and were able to clear up disagreements of the past. These discussions frequently

led to real rapprochement, dissipating erroneous impressions formed during earlier

confrontations when passions were less well controlled; and a mutual esteem previously

unthought of thus developed. It was this kind of information about the students that the

“unmaskers” particularly were after.


The individual under interrogation had to confess all the discussions he had had with his

fellows, report in detail all educational meetings that had dealt with citizenship and

political events, and denounce all who had shown attitudes hostile to the prison

administration or made sarcastic remarks in connection with interpretation of Marxism, or

jokes about Stalin the “teacher.” Answers were required to such questions as who among

the students had a “fanatical” attitude; or was better informed; or was capable of

polarizing the younger members around him; who gave medical help to those condemned

to hard labor all this in order to determine precisely the classification of individuals for

eventual use in “unmasking” those who as yet had not walked through the fire.


When the student had declared all, or as much as he had to in order to convince the

re-education committee that he was hiding nothing, only then began the real tragedy, the

“inner unmasking,” the attempt to annihilate the soul. Through the first unmasking he had

given over enough information and names to the Securitate to destroy collaborators still

free; now he would be forced to yield up his own personality for immolation. The

re-educators hoped to destroy the moral and psychological strength of his inner being

and transform him into amorphous material, to be shaped by them into a “new



To this end the students were obliged to crush underfoot everything they held most

sacred God, family, friends, love, wife, colleagues, memories, ideology everything which

bound them to the past, anything that might give them inner support while in prison.


When the student had passed this test also, to the satisfaction of the re-educators, he

became an “honest and clean” vessel worthy of receiving the new doctrine of Marxist

humanism, embodied at that time in the person of “the genial leader of the peoples,” Mr.

J. V. Stalin.


In the name of this doctrine of re-structuring, and to justify the unmaskings in his own

way, Turcanu used to say:


“You bandit, I beat in you the Legionary criminal (or the National Party member, as the

case might be); I have nothing against you personally. By my action, I am helping you to

discard the criminal concept that brought you here, and am preparing you to join in a

new cause, more just, the cause of the working people.”


As a matter of fact, this is the kind of treatment which, on different levels and in different

terms, is applied to all of society under Communist tutelage. Through devious

propaganda manipulation, the Communists try to make man believe that general

pauperism is not real, that the state of affairs could not be better, and that this is the only

road to happiness ...


For those who have lived under Communism, a paradox such as this is not uncommon,

and they are not long surprised at the considerable disproportion between what is

claimed and what is actually done. For instance, all kinds of laws are enacted to satisfy

every human need, but exactly the opposite is practiced. But about this one cannot

speak in a loud voice ...







The Communists apply to human beings the well-known principle of conditioned reflexes

that explains much of the behavior of animals.



These reflexes, which are the basis of Socialist medical science and psychology, are

often called “Pavlovian reflexes” after the Russian physiologist, Ivan Pavlov,[1] who was

the first to conduct systematic experiments, chiefly on dogs, to determine the exact

nature of this neurophysiological reaction. Actually, however, the phenomenon that

Pavlov investigated was well known for centuries and extensively used in practice to train

animals. The most famous of Pavlov’s experiments was performed by giving a dog a

chunk of meat at the ringing of a bell. After this has been done several times, the dog’s

reflexes are so conditioned that the animal will salivate abundantly when it hears the bell

although he has no meat before him. For many centuries before Pavlov, however,

conditioned reflexes were used; for example, by gypsies to produce dancing bears. A

small bear cub is walked over a sheet of metal under which there is a slow burning fire.

As the sheet metal becomes warm, the soles of the little bear’s feet begin to pain him and

he lifts one foot after another, shifting his weight alternately to cool the soles of his feet.

While he is doing this, drums are beaten. After this training has been repeated several

times, the neurological association between the sound of the drums and the movement of

the feet is established, and ever thereafter, the bear, although full grown, will begin to

“dance” whenever he hears the beating of the drums. Such, reduced to its simplest

terms, is the procedure for producing conditioned reflexes in irrational animals.


When the Communists apply this technique to their human subjects, they must first

reduce their victims to the condition of animals.


When one destroys in man the moral and intellectual foundation of his being, his

consciousness of personal identity and superiority, and thus deprives him of control over

his own faculties by reason and will, man ceases to be a superior being. There is no

longer any difference between man and animal. He will submit, as do animals, to

biological impulses.


That is why, when he encountered unexpected opposition in a cell, Turcanu affirmed:

“Your resistance is in vain. This system has been perfected and used for twenty-five

years[2] and so far it has never failed. You will become convinced of this yourselves. I

do not work haphazardly.” The prison’s warden, the Bolshevik Lieutenant Dumitrescu,

stated several times in more than one cell, a little before the beginning of “re-education”:

“Even if you were made out of granite, you would not be able to resist all the way. Shortly

you will see that I do not lie.” At Pitesti, at least as far as the basic method was

concerned, the experimenters improvised nothing; from the very first they applied a

method that had worked innumerable times and whose results could be predicted with



How the system was elaborated and tested, I do not know, but its effects were certain. A

mere reference to the tortures was like Professor Pavlov’s bell or the gypsies’ drum. A

word was sufficient to trigger the reflex that pain and degradation had created, and the

man was at once paralyzed and behaved as the experimenters wished.


Beginning with the prisoners from the “correction” category and from labor camps, the

“re-educators” trained a group sufficiently large to handle the other categories of

prisoners. This operation was facilitated by the distribution of the students among cells,

which held from five to fifteen persons, who were thus always together but completely

isolated from contact with others, since the cells were locked and shuttered from the

outside both day and night. This isolation in small units facilitated the operation.


At first only a few, then more and more, and finally all the students went through

“re-education.” And all became finally, no matter how long they resisted, mindless docile

creatures of which the supervisors made further use according to a well established plan.

There where no exceptions. Only those who were so lucky as to die under torture and

those who, profiting by some oversight on the part of their tormentors, found a way to

commit suicide, escaped the transformation.


Men who had for two years, day after day, night after night, defied the tortures and the

bullets of the Communist Securitate, crumbled little by little under the Pavlovian technique

and, overwhelmed by despair, terror, incertitude, were metamorphosed into zombies.


What radical transformations take place in the soul of one whose right of biological

self-destruction is denied, who for years on end is kept in a state of living death with an

ingenuity truly Satanic? What can survive systematic menticide? Heroism?

Self-sacrifice? Ethical convictions? Idealism? Had the pagans during the persecutions of

Christians used Communist methods, it is probable that the Christian calendar would

number fewer saints and martyrs.


What could be more depressing than this thought? Among the victims of the

Communists, there are no heroes there can be no heroes.


Is heroism perhaps a simple state of psychic exaltation nourished by sentiment that

depends on events and environment? Under the conditions created at Pitesti, not only

could no one become a hero, but the very concept of heroism was obliterated.


If some day in the future it becomes possible thoroughly to investigate the applications of

Bolshevik techniques and the profound mutations of the human psyche induced by them,

civilized mankind will arraign and damn not the ephemeral creatures who carried out the

techniques of torment, but the perennial originators of the appalling techniques that

reduce man to a level inferior to that of animals.


After the first phase of procedure initiated in Hospital Room Four was completed and the

victims had been reduced to the desired psychopathological state of passive desperation

and animal helplessness, they were judged ripe for the next stage in the process. They

were ready now for the second phase in which the prisoners would be brought to

denounce one another spontaneously and without any instigation by the prison



Transfers from one cell to another were effected by prison authorities as Turcanu

directed. They gave him a free hand to shuffle prisoners around as he thought expedient

in the “unmasking” program, and he had at his disposal the entire list of condemned

men, by which he could switch prisoners back and forth in various combinations. To hide

his role, the transfers were always made by the prison guards on orders from above.


Turcanu had transfers made so that a group of students who had passed through the

training given in Hospital Room Four shared a cell with a group of students who had

heard nothing of the “unmasking” technique and naturally entertained could entertain no

suspicion of the newcomers, who seemed to have been placed with them only by one of

the seemingly random rearrangements of prisoners that the prison authorities frequently

decreed. For two or three weeks, the “un-masked” students started discussions,

criticized the Communist regime, and exchanged information seeking to loosen the

tongues of their unsuspecting companions who were next in line for “re-education”, in

order to elicit from each at least several compromising statements for later use. Such

statements were sought as a means of destroying, when the time come, first, the

confidence and trust that the students then reposed in one another (for at that time no

one who had not been “re-educated” could even imagine what was in store for them) and

second, their natural aversion to Communism.


The prisoners, who were deprived of all ordinary materials for writing, had long been

accustomed secretly to use soap tablets for memoranda and even communication

between cells. The newcomers complying of course, with the instructions of the masters

took advantage of this custom and wrote down on these tablets everything they thought

could be helpful in the coming “unmaskings.” They concealed these inscribed tablets of

soap and transmitted them to Turcanu or his assistants, either in the morning when they

were taken out of the cell to the lavatory, or when they were called out by guards,

ostensibly summoned to the main office, but really so that they could, without arousing

suspicion, report to Turcanu in the corridor outside the cell. At other times, these soap

tablets were hidden in predetermined places in the washroom, and collected, after the

night lock-up, by agents of the Securitate. The records on soap were also given furtively

to prison guards, to the persons who distributed the food, or to others whom the

“re-educated” could on occasion approach in ways that excited no remark among their

unsuspecting cellmates.


The “re-educators”, of course, had no need for the information thus obtained and

recorded; it could have been extracted anyway during the “unmaskings.” This procedure

was ordained for three reason: first, it confirmed each of the “re-educated” in his

conditioned habit of hypocrisy and treachery toward his intended victims and

simultaneously bound the “re-educated” together by their common guilt; second, the

surreptitious provoking and recording of compromising statements kept the “re-educated”

in a state of constant vigilance and anxiety, for they realized that if, by some lingering

sentiment of decency or sheer oversight, they were inefficient in their assumed roles,

they would be given more “re-education” themselves; and finally, the production of such

devastatingly complete and accurate information at the psychological moment would take

the victims completely by surprise and stun them, so to speak, by a blow from inside.


After some weeks, when it was thought that enough compromising data had been

collected, the “re-educators” in the cell were put into action. At that time, one of the

leaders of the O.D.C.C., usually Turcanu himself, entered the cell escorted by several of

his collaborators. The appearance of this contingent both reminded the “re-educated” in

the cell of what they had undergone, thus triggering their conditioned reflexes, and had

the practical effect of bringing in a team of strong bully-boys to avert the possibility that,

as had happened in Hospital Room Four, a desperate resistance might make necessary

the direct intervention of the prison authorities. The contingent that escorted Turcanu on

such occasions was composed of well-fed, vigorous and husky men, not to mention

Turcanu himself, who was truly a Hercules by comparison with the students who had

been physically debilitated by the starvation diet to which they had been long and

continuously subjected. Considering the fact that the bullyboys were precisely the

trusties who did the work of distributing the food to each cell, it is obvious how they

obtained ample nourishment, despite the official doctrine that all prisoners are “bandits”

who must not be allowed “to live on the back of the working people.” The intelligentsia

who, from behind the scenes, directed the whole sinister tragedy, had arranged even

such details in advance so that nothing could happen to disturb the performance of their



After the contingent of “re-educators” entered a cell, a “meeting” began with a discourse,

usually by Turcanu himself, consisting of the same stereotyped phrases that had been

uttered in Hospital Room Four: “the need for ‘re-education’”, “bandits who oppose it”,

“the necessity of breaking all resistance by no matter what means”, etc., etc.[3] At the

conclusion of the “speech”, all the inmates of the cell, including the “re-educated” were

asked to make their “unmasking” (“self-denouncement”) immediately. The answer of the

students was always the same, and likewise Turcanu’s reaction: he gave the signal by

lifting either his cap or his hand, and then, as in Hospital Room Four, began the

beatings. But now the confusion and dismay of the victims was even greater, for they

saw among their assailants their own cellmates, whom they had until that very moment

regarded as brothers. Now these trusted comrades were suddenly dealing them

desperate blows, in the back more often than not. How could they know the motivation for

a transformation apparently instantaneous?


The “re-educators” exploited to the utmost that first moment of bewilderment. A man who

had been a literary student described that moment to me in these words:


“When Turcanu ended his speech I thought he was crazy. And we all looked at one

another in astonishment. But only a few moments elapsed. He raised his cap. That very

instant, a friend, probably the best friend I had before we were arrested and a man in

whom I had blind faith, struck me full in my face with his fist, delivering so furious a blow

that I was dazed. I looked at him in utter terror. My hands hung down, suddenly

powerless. I was not capable of saying one word; I was simply unable to ask him why.

He continued to strike me with the same desperation. I could not muster even the

slightest resistance. At first I thought this was a nightmare or that all our minds had been

suddenly darkened by a collective madness. Finally I tried to ask him something; I do not

know anymore what it was. His reply was a rain of blows with his fists accompanied by

facial expressions so hideous that they seemed to hurt me even more than the

pummeling. It was only then that I somehow collected my wits and tried to defend myself.

But from behind, another student, who had been brought into my cell at the same time as

my friend some two weeks before, attacked me. This fellow was armed with a cudgel. I

could not imagine where he had obtained it! I could not get out of the way anymore. I

started to strike in desperation, at random, wherever I could. I tried to open a path

towards the wall to protect my back, but someone with a cudgel landed a powerful blow

on my left arm. Then another cudgel descended on my head. My body trembled. Other

blows followed; they rained upon me. In the cell a frightening brawl was taking place.

Groans, the thuds of cudgels, curses were blent into a chaotic uproar.


“After a while the cudgels broke, and the fight became body to body. But we were far

fewer and weaker than our assailants. One by one we fell to the floor, physically unable

to rise. Later, I lapsed into unconsciousness. How long I remained in that state, I do not

know. When I came to, I was covered with blood and black and blue all over. My body

was numb, yet it ached in every fibre. I could not move. My companions were in the

same state. Turcanu had left the room, leaving us in the hands of his collaborators, the

men, (including my erstwhile bosom friend) who had been brought into our cell two

weeks before and who, as was now obvious to us, had come already appointed as our

‘re-education committee’, a position they now openly assumed. What had just happened

had created a bottomless abyss between us and them. Turcanu could breathe freely, for

none of his men could now let him down. But at that bitter moment I did not imagine could

not have believed that, in a few months, I myself would reach a condition in which I

tortured others in order to ‘re-educate’ them.”


When the young man finished that narrative this was several years after the

“unmaskings” an indescribable despair could be read on his face. Then he concluded:

“By an unimaginable fatality, we became the gravediggers of our own aspirations, of our

own souls. For never again will we be able to raise our heads. Christians once died

happily for their faith. But we, also Christians, could not attain that happiness. We

became the tools of the Communism that we heartily detested, in order mutually to

destroy ourselves, in order to bury our dearest hopes in unique madness, hopes that we

had nourished with much suffering and worldly renunciation. It was as if Satan had

grabbed us from the hands of God. If I had then an opportunity to commit suicide, I

would have wanted nothilig more. But now, in my present state, I lack even the courage

to do it. I may seem to be whole, but in reality I am only the wreck of myself, discredited

in the eyes of my friends, and despised by my enemies. And yet, in essence, we were

guilty of nothing, really.”


In those scenes, the ratio of forces was usually two to one. Furthermore, the

“re-educated” had been equipped with bludgeons, cudgels, boards, and straps, and they

were inspired by the strange induced hatred that drove them to reduce all prisoners to a

common level, so that no one could look at another with accusing eyes. In that furious

urge they vented their own agony born of the knowledge that they had been unable to

resist, were not able to die before submitting.


Seldom did the guards have to intervene. But sometimes, despite the disproportion of

numbers and strength, the desperation and resistance that followed the first moment of

surprise and bewilderment, made it necessary to bring in re-enforeements for the

“re-educators.” The warden, Dumitrescu, always supervised through the peephole the

progress of the “unmasking” inside, especially at the very beginning, which was the

critical juncture.


In general, the first beating lasted between three and four hours, but in some cases it

lasted through nine consecutive hours, for desperation awakens in man forces little

known. The students were one by one eliminated from the fight. After each man had

been beaten to immobility or unconsciousness, his skull cracked or his ribs broken, he

was stripped and subjected to a minute personal search. Every article that could

conceivably be used for protection or to commit suicide was taken and confiscated. Then

the naked and inert bodies were shoved under the bunk-bed. As each man recovered

consciousness, the beatings were resumed by the “re-education committee.”


For days, those in the “position of unmasking” were subjected to this brutal regimen.

Unable to resist or to defend themselves, kept under stringent surveillance, to prevent

them from commiting suicide, their minds gradually succumbed to the utter despair that

the “unmasking” technique was designed to produce. And they abandoned themselves to

the tortures, passively waiting with blighted consciousness for whatever was to happen to



The methods used in “unmaskings” were basically uniform. All means of attaining the

calculated goal were, of course, sanctioned, and if there were some variations in the

administration of torture, they were merely small details that the criminal mentalities of the

various bosses were permitted to introduce into the fixed pattern of procedure.





       -At the time of the Bolshevik capture of Russia, Pavlov, who was almost seventy

years old, failed to escape from Russia, but was not liquidated. He held the strange

notion that scientific research was “non-political”, and placed the results of his work at

the disposal of the Bolsheviks, who rewarded him with a handsome pension and every

facility for continuing his researches until his death in 1936. Of course, Pavlov

conducted many other and more complicated experiments to reduce animals to total

prostration by producing conflicts between established reflexes. These principles are, of

course, applied by the Communists to destroy the victim’s rationality, but the subject is

too extensive to be discussed in this note. For further information, see any good treatise

on neuro-psychological phenomena. For a brief outline, see Chapter Two of Edward

Hunter’s Brainwashing, New York, 1956; or later reprints. (Tr.)



       -This means that the system used at Pitesti was put in operation in Russia

immediately after the aged Pavlov spent three months in the Kremlin as the almost royal

guest of Ulyanov, alias Lenin, for whom he prepared a secret 400-page manual on the

ways of inducing conditioned reflexes and inhibitions in human beings. The first film to

train Bolshevik secret police in Pavlovian methods was, so far as is known, produced in

1928. (Tr.)



       -Communist verbiage normally follows stereotyped patterns, but it may be

noteworthy that the repetition here would serve more forcefully to remind the

“re-educated” of the preliminaries to their transformation. (Tr.)







In Pitesti prison, the day began at five o’clock in the morning to allow time for the

cleaning and straightening of the cell, which had to be done by six. This chore

obligatorily fell upon the “Catholics”, as those considered more “fanatical” or more

resistant to “re-education” were called. The run-of-the-mill prisoners were put to work

washing windows or doing other menial chores. Those who scrubbed the floors were

compelled to carry “piggyback” at least one of the “re-educated” and sometimes two or

three of them, as prescribed by the “re-education committee.” Floor scrubbing lasted

until six o’clock when the guards came around to take the head count. Often the warden

himself or officers of the Securitate came to open the cells for inspection. The inmates

were, of course, compelled to stand at attention, while the cell’s leader, always one of the

“re-educated”, gave a report. Men who had been so tortured that they could not stand up,

were put in the back row and supported under their arms by the “re-educated” doubtless

to spare the warden’s feelings!


Following the morning inspection, the cells were said to be “open.” At this time the

students were taken out under guard to “wash” and to clean “the bucket” a kind of

wooden container used during the previous day for their necessities. According to a

prison-wide rule of the “re-education committee” the use of this archaic toilet was

restricted to urination. For other necessities, students were permitted twice a day to use

common toilets in the hall of their section of the prison.


There are some aspects of the life of a prisoner which are usually not mentioned, for the

details are repugnant, but I must allude to them here because they formed one of the

most carefully planned and effective elements of the program of “re-education.”


The gamut of torment and humiliation to which the students were subjected was cunningly

increased when they went to the lavatory and toilet. The time allowed one who was in the

“state of unmasking” was too short even for the necessary preparation. It varied from

thirty seconds or less to a maximum of one minute, the exact amount of time being left

within these limits to the discretion of the one escorting the “bandit.” Those who were

unable to finish in the allotted time, were pulled out by the collar, beaten because they

“sabotaged cleanliness”, and hustled back into their cells, where they had to wait either

until evening, or, if the incident occurred during the evening program, until the next

morning. When this happened repeatedly in consecutive trips, the victim had to resort to

other means much more humiliating. The same thing happened in the wash room, where

one was hardly given the time to wet his hands. Of course, this program was continued

with unrelenting thoroughness until the “unmasking” was completed.


This system of degradation was extensively applied in all the Securitate centers of

Communist Romania. As an example I give only one case: In the summer of 1952 I was

under interrogation at the Constanta Securitate. Sometime in August, Dr. Papahagi was

brought into our cell. He used to be the chief medical officer of Tulcea County. Although

he was a member of the Communist Party, he had just been arrested for “Fascist”

activity, supposedly carried out many years before when he was a pupil in a Romanian

high school in Greece! The guards of the section in which he was confined were all from

Tulcea, where he had practiced medicine for many years, and they knew him well. But

nevertheless he was literally grabbed by his collar and kicked, undressed as he was, by

an illiterate guard from Jurilofca. They gave him less than a minute to use the toilet. The

doctor came back into the cell weeping. To that moment he had thought I was too

emotional when I talked about the inhuman treatment that was our lot in prison!


Returned to their rooms, the students received the morning’s food rations a serving

consisting of a spoonfull (250 cc.) of cornmeal soup, called terci, or the same quantity of

tea. Students who were in “position of unmasking”, had no right to eat as everybody else

ate. They were forced to eat “hog-like”, using only their mouths! They had to kneel down,

hands behind their backs, or go down on all fours, if such was the command of the

“re-education chief.” In this position, they had to suck up the hot liquid from the

mess-pan placed before them. The result was that the student ended with his lips burned.

There was always initial resistance to this demand to behave like a hog, but after severe

and prolonged torture everyone was finally compelled to submit.


A “bandit” was not allowed to wash his mess-pan after consuming its contents. The

washing had to be done by licking, because the water distributed to cells could be used

only by those already “re-educated.” There was no running water in the cells. Trusties

brought it in from the halls in wooden casks or similar vessels. Breakable containers that

might give someone a means of committing suicide were forbidden.


Immediatelv after finishing “breakfast”, those under “unmasking” took their “positions.”

Each was obliged to sit on the edge of the bed, his legs stretched out, his hands on his

knees, his head lifted and looking always forward, without being allowed to turn it in either

direction. Each was constantly watched over by a guard, recruited naturally from among

those who already had gone through “unmaskings.” The slightest deviation from the

assigned position was summarily and severely punished by the guard, who then reported

to his superior, the chief of the “re-education committee”, who in his turn inflicted a

Supplementary chastisement.


The noon meal was served between eleven and twelve o’clock. Bread was distributed

first. When the regular guard approached the cell, or when the familiar mealtime noise

out in the hall was heard, at a given signal, everyone adopted as natural a position as

possible “in order to keep the guard in the dark with respect to our activities in the cell”,

even though that guard had participated in an earlier phase of “unmasking”, either on his

own or under the direction of the warden or of an officer of the Securitate. Every student

walked past the bread basket and meal barrel placed in the doorway to receive his

portion. The moment the door of the cell was closed and locked, the discipline of

“unmasking” was resumed. A “bandit” was not permitted to use his hands while eating his

bread. Often, with his hands tied behind his back and the bread thrown in front of him,

he was forced to eat it kneeling down and using only his mouth. The tiniest crumb had to

be picked off the floor by his tongue or his lips! Sometimes the method was changed. A

prisoner was permitted to use his hands in eating his bread, but then the nine ounce

hunk was broken into two or three pieces, each of which he had to stuff whole into his



The rest of the noon meal was served in essentially the same manner as the breakfast

tea, except that at this meal, the torment was greater. In the morning the tea or the terci

would cool a little if one stalled a bit, even if one was beaten for doing so, but the food at

the noon meals, being somewhat thicker and usually consisting mainly of husked oats,

took longer to cool. The “re-education committee” demanded that each “bandit” consume

his meal as soon as possible; one of its members placed himself in front of the “bandit”

and by beating, forced him to lap up the steaming food at once. The mess-pan was again

cleaned by licking. Or, on other occasions, any form of cleaning was strictly forbidden,

because the “enemies of the people” need no cleanliness ... After this, the prisoners

resumed their assigned positions.


A slight interruption occurred at five o’clock. The warden or a chief guard went from cell

to cell counting the prisoners. The positions taken were the same as those of the

morning. Those who could not stand alone were placed in the back rows and were

flanked by two “re-educated.” After the six o’clock inspection, return to the assigned

positions on the edge of the beds was continued until nine o’clock, when the “lights out”

signal was given (an anachronous term retained from the times when prisoners could

turn off lights for the night). Under Communist rule, in the prisons of Romania all prisons

lights burn in the cells all night. When the bell rang out in the hall, each prisoner had to

go to bed, and talking after this time was punishable according to regulations. But “lights

out” at Pitesti was the beginning of a new ordeal. After thirteen hours of continuous

torment, the victims were allowed to sleep only in a prescribed position that was,

perhaps, more cruel than the others. Stretched on his back, face up, his body out

straight, with his hands above the blanket covering his body to his chest, the student was

not permitted to alter that sleeping position in any way. At his feet, with a bludgeon in his

hands, stood watch a student guard; who in turn was tormented by lack of sleep and

therefore the more antagonized by any resistance of his charge.


To whom does it not happen while sleeping, involuntarily, to turn on one side, or to raise

his knees? A blow on the ankle-bone given with the full force of the arm brought the one

who had moved again into the “correct” position. The watcher was obliged to strike a

strong blow because he feared not only the “unmasking committee”, but also the one

whom he was watching. I do not mean that the recipient of the blow would request that he

be struck a strong blow, but the watcher himself was apprehensive of being punished,

should he show any pity. For when once a man’s resistance was broken, he began to

talk about “everything,” and if the watcher did not strike him hard enough, he in the

course of his “unmasking” would tell that on such and such an occasion he had been let

off lightly by his watcher, who must therefore be a former friend, and must either have

made an incomplete “unmasking” or had a recurrence of bourgeois thoughts and

prejudices. Thus it often happened that watchers were forced back into the routine of

“unmasking” for a second time, merely because someone denounced them for not

having struck him hard enough during the “sleeping discipline”!


Following the first blow, sleep did not return, and sleeplessness took over. It was as if

they were attending a wake for the dead and began usually immediately or shortly after



Hours passed snail-paced; the victims tried to stay awake, afraid that they would turn or

make some involuntary movement if they fell asleep, because a blow received under

such circumstances has a terrific psychological effect. And when it happened that one

nevertheless fell asleep, the sleep was not a normal sleep, but a kind of unconsciousness

resulting from total exhaustion. Morning was expected with relief and return to the rigid

position of “unmasking” came as a blessing!


How many secret supplications were made to Heaven, how many desperate minds

sought to discover somewhere, even in the most fantastic and absurd conjectures, a ray

of hope or a prospect of death! But neither came. For the time being only physical

suffering filled their consciousness; the agony of the soul would come later. For the

sufferers, time had ceased to exist except as a scarcely comprehended alternation

between the light of day and that of the electric bulb overhead. And yet they resisted. The

capacity to endure, that wonderful weapon of the soul that raised to sainthood so many

ordinary mortals, was here also abundantly manifested.


The students endured and waited. It was a desperate waiting, endless, unnatural, for in

their hearts they had known for a long time that they were utterly helpless and at the

mercy of their torturers. They were convinced that in all the other prisons too, and

perhaps outside as well, the system of decomposition by torture was being applied to

everyone. They knew, too, that it was impossible to resist forever, for each man saw a

former friend, whom he had known intimately and in whom he had previously had implicit

faith, who had yielded, who had changed into a non-human. Yet, something inside still

encouraged the victims to resist, to resist in the hidden depths of their minds.


When the patience of the “re-education committee” wore thin or rather when the unseen

experts who directed everything from the shadows judged that the time had come, there

was uttered the terrible question that everybody expected, from which no one was



“Bandit, have you decided to make your unmasking?”


Those who were already broken heard that question with a kind of painful relief and

began to talk. They were then put through the entire procedure for the total disintegration

of their souls.


But most of the students, even though they seemed broken, were obstinate and

responded drily: “I have nothing to unmask. Everything I knew I confessed at the



The “re-educators” considered that answer a defiance. It was only then that the “real

beating” began.


Many were the students who provoked the beatings not only deliberately but eagerly out

of despair. The beatings gave them their only hope of dying. For everyone who preferred

death to acceptance of degradation hoped desperately that during such a beating he

might receive a fatal blow that would end his perpetual torment, and release him from the

unbearable burden of life. But the directors of the experiment knew all of this, and so did

the tormentors inside the cells, for many of them, when in the same situation, had longed

and hoped for a deathdealing blow. They were under orders categorically forbidding

such mercy. No blows were permitted on the temples, the region of the heart, the base of

the head, or any other spot where a blow could be fatal. The physical death of students

had to be prevented in order to kill the soul. The whole purpose, of course, of the

unhuman directors was to extirpate the soul and replace it with conditioned reflexes. Only

thus could they create the new man needed in the society of tomorrow of which they

dream. In the jargon of the Marxist theory of dialectical materialism, such creation is

called “dis-alienation.”[1] It is attained by a crucifixion of the soul ending in moral, not

physical death.


When the longed-for death did not come, men craved for the blow that would make them

unconscious, their only way of escaping for even a few moments from the inferno

invented by those who promise mankind paradise on earth.





       -Marx said that men, because of religion, became alienated, in other words, that

they lost their original and correct direction. “Dis-alienation”, then, is the process

bringing the individual back to a form of “reasoning” uncontaminated by religious

superstitions and by the burden of several thousands of years of “slavery.”