The tactic adopted by the technicians who managed the unmaskings from the outside

was to liquidate the opposition from periphery to center; in other words, to begin with the

victim’s beliefs that were external to his ego and to proceed by calculated stages to the

destruction of the inner man. When the student had “proved by deeds” that he had

repudiated everything that had theretofore constituted his world and thought, he was

made to repudiate himself by defaming himself. He had to compose an “autobiography”

that proved that he had been brought to his present predicament by a “lack of inner

character,” and moral perversity and mental sickness that had made him unreceptive to



He had to begin his autobiography from the moment of his earliest recollections. The

predominant theme had to be a negative one, and expressed in superlatives. Vices and

deficiencies had to appear in his early years so that his faulty upbringing would form part

of a consistent pattern. Contact with the outside world began in his elementary school,

where every student must have been taught to steal, and to despise those poorer than

himself, so that he would create for himself a superiority complex a complex that later

would make him susceptible to the reactionary doctrines of the idealist bourgeois

criminals. Attending secondary school, he had necessarily to deepen his perversity and

develop his egocentrism, love of money, and ambition to achieve social status rapidly by

ambiguous means, the first of which was to incriminate others in order to court the good

will of the professors, the possessors of “power.”


The educators, of course, were engaged in an illicit traffic in influence, granting special

favors to students whose parents returned the favor by augmenting the social position of

teachers. The rotten environment in which the student was reared also had to lead him

necessarily into frequenting establishments which were “officially” offlimits to all students,

but which actually were open to those with the money to pay but closed to sons of

workers or the poor.


The literature one read in school (and the students had to cite specific books) could not

be anything but a police novel, pornographic literature, the tendentious novel written to

aggravate the feeling of hatred toward workers and defenders of the proletarian class.

Lastly, movies of the gangster type had to be mentioned, or of frivolous adventure, or

films playing up banditry, the heroes of which became idols and models of these



Naturally, the result of such an environment led one into the kind of politics natural to

Romanian life between the two wars, namely (as characterized by the Communists) one

of dishonor, corruption, thievery, blackmail and political assassination. One also

developed a disdain toward inferiors, and exercised flattery toward superiors, with the

sole aim that of climbing socially. The principal purpose was to become wealthy through

exploitation of the working class.


Now, in order to illustrate for his listeners as graphically as possible the moral decadence

of his background, the student had to attribute to himself all the possible sins of that

environment and claim he had committed them, including all imaginable perversions. His

character included without exception all the deformed aspects of man, everything

psychopathology considers abnormal. Whoever would not recognize every sin and vice

as his own only proved he was not yet permeated with the true meaning of “unmasking,”

and those in charge of his “re-education” missed no opportunity to remind him of this

with their bludgeons.


Finally, he saw the only thing to do was admit those vices were in him and tell about them

in detail. Pederasty, incest, masturbation, every depravity a student had read about or

heard of as practiced anywhere on earth, all were described by him as his own actions,

bestiality (intercourse with animals) not being excluded. In this way the student was

forced to wallow in a quagmire of filth to its very dregs, as if some Satanic force had

assumed mastery over him, ordering him to burden his soul with everything which had in

the past roused in him the profoundest revulsion.


This imposition of self-degradation became a sort of psychic hysteria that at a given

moment seemed to fuse the re-educator’s command with a desire for self-destruction in

the re-educated. By injecting gradually into the victim’s subconscious information

different from what he had always accepted as real and true, by altering and constantly

deprecating existing reality and substituting for it a fictitious image, the re-educator at last

achieved the final purpose of the unmasking: to make the lie so real to the victim that he

would forget what had formerly for him made sense. His chaotic mental state and the

unreal coordinates along which his consciousness moved throughout the months of

torture turned lies into truth and truth into lies, much as the body gradually accustoms

itself to narcotic poisons and develops a dependence on them.


As long as his nervous system responded to only rational commands, the student could

maintain a normal line of behavior. But the moment fear altered this subordination, his

nervous system became his mind’s greatest enemy. Any kind of reaction was possible

when the entire organism was set quivering, as if touched by fire, by the appearance of

the bludgeon, an instrument which attained apocalyptic proportions in the tormented

memory of the sufferer. And if natural reticence and dignity endeavored still to hide

something in his inner self, his nervous system betrayed him unequivocally. It was at this

moment the fusion took place, the hoped-for result of all the planning by the

experimenters: the complete reversal, for an indeterminate time, of the values in which

the student had always believed.


From then on for an indefinite period, the student would see the world as a god with two

faces; the first, which he had thought was real was now become unreal; the second,

fantastic and ugly beyond any previous imaginings, now had become real, obsessively

and painstakingly so, even though deep down within him a stifled warning might still

question its authenticity. And the impossible and the absurd, gradually taking on the

semblance of actuality in his consciousness, became the sole standard of value in the

student’s thinking. The artificial reality step by step displaced every trace of truth from

previously verified fact.


But who can fathom the bottomless depths of man’s soul? Who knows but that the life of

one’s past, stubbornly resisting annihilation, may not take refuge somewhere in the

depths of the subconscious, while the lie, becoming more and more dominant as truth is

denied, invades the entire consciousness of the individual, who finally accepts it as a

biological necessity for survival? Whatever the answer to this question, all the students

who revealed their drama to me said that even when they believed the lies, they could still

feel a vague anxiety, a sort of warning from the subconscious that disturbed the smooth

functioning of the new order, like a ghostly intimation that something was not in its proper

place.[1] It may be that the ego, man’s inner self, though subordinated by the biological

laws of self-preservation and displaced by an alien consciousness, may encyst itself

down deep, to remain dormant until outside conditions change and the enclosing cyst is

dissolved by returning normalcy.


So long as the danger persisted, however, the artificially induced consciousness was

supreme, and any suggestion of doubt that might come from the subconscious was

blocked by fear of physical suffering. Fear, deception and pain pushed to the maximum,

become allies in psychopathic states, and make man his own enemy, making him

frantically repress and strangle his own mind and soul to keep his tormented body alive.


When the victim had become a “new man” and mentally healthy by Communist

standards, he had to give proof of his regeneration. It was not sufficient to invent the

foulest lies about one’s dearest friends; it was necessary to demonstrate one’s

rehabilitation by physical action, by striking every friend who could be brought before

one. As the unmasking progressed, the punishments became increasingly harsh as a

constant reminder that there was no escape. The victim had, of course, disclosed in the

first stage the names of all his friends, both those with whom his friendship dated from

his childhood and student days and those whom he had come to know and like in prison.

Every one of these individuals then within the walls of the prison was brought in for his

unmasking, and he was required to strike each of them in the face and in turn be struck

by them.


By such re-education through infinite torment and the destruction of his own personality,

a man or rather the physical husk of him animated by an alien consciousness was

eventually graduated to become a teacher in his turn, and to re-educate others. Then he

was sent with several re-educated companions into the cells of prisoners newly brought

to Pitesti to greet with feigned comradeship his old friends and to form, with consummate

hypocrisy, “friendships” with men whom he had not met or known well before; he would

thus gain the confidence of all and extract from each of his future victims every bit of

information that could be used when the time came for their unmasking. Only when he

and his companions had learned everything that they could in this way were they allowed

to produce hidden cudgels and fall upon the startled and thunder-struck victims to begin

their re-education and to preside over their unmasking with a ferocity stimulated by the

awareness that if he gave the slightest sign of leniency or pity, he would be charged with

having relapsed from his new “purification” and be condemned to pass again through the

whole curriculum of re-education and unmasking.


Could anyone escape from that ultimate degradation and dehumanization? No, no one no

one at all, except those who died during tortures, killed by an unskillful blow or by the

internal hemorrhages that not infrequently followed kicks in the stomach or abdomen. Let

me mention a few of those who escaped in this manner.


Bogdanovici, who had been the friend and even the collaborator of Turcanu in the period

of “rehabilitation through conviction,” in the next phase died by the boot of Turcanu

himself. The diagnosis by the prison infirmary: death by acute dysentery! Actually his

“dysentery” was a rupture of the abdominal arteries, for Bogdanovici died eliminating all

his blood through his bowels.


Gafencu, a student from Iasi, who had been imprisoned continuously from the time of

Antonescu,[2] and who was regarded as a leader of the “mystics,” perished in the same



A chemistry student, Cantemir, also from Iasi, absolutely refused to speak evil of anyone

in the very first phase of his unmasking, and was murdered in his cell by his overly

enthusiastic re-educators and thus spared all that he would have had subsequently to



So far as I was told, about fifteen victims escaped the final stages of unmasking in this

way. The re-educators were formally ordered to avoid killing, but when they did kill one of

their victims, they were merely warned not to be so careless in the future, and were

usually promoted, for the zeal that had caused death was accepted as a proof of their

successful “purification” and complete alignment with the new morality. For some reason,

the majority of the killers came from the ranks of the “mushroom” resistance

organizations that were formed spontaneously soon after the Soviet occupation by small

groups of students who had previously held themselves aloof from political concerns and

ideological commitments. At least two of them felt remorse after murdering a fellow

prisoner, and one became violently insane.


An apparent anomaly in the behavior of the inquisitors was their treatment of persons

sick with tuberculosis or a comparable disease. They were exempted from beatings, if

they agreed to “unmask” without them, and in order to convince them that it was best not

to refuse, they were usually brought into cells where violent unmaskings were in progress

and forced to witness the suffering of the victims. If they then refused to co-operate in

their re-education, they were subjected to the same treatment as the others, but they

were all given a chance to escape the prolonged agony of body, and the majority

preferred to take it. Of them, only the outer unmasking was required, that is, the one that

elicited information useful to the Securitate and the unmaskers.


The demoralizing effect of even this limited unmasking, however, intensified their illness

as much as the lack of medicine, adequate food, and wholesome air. Since persons

suffering from consumptive diseases were not likely to be useful to the experimenters, not

much emphasis was placed on their re-education. It was easier just to let them die slowly,

consumed by disease and despair.


Every student who passed through the re-education had his own story and his own

burden of guilt. The most singular aspect of the Pitesti experiment was its uniform

success in converting the victim into a persecutor and tormentor of other victims, and this

result poses for us one of the most difficult and unusual ethico-psychological problems. If

we are to understand it, we must study the techniques of re-education in greater detail.





        -It should be remembered that the author, naturally, was able to interview only

persons who recovered from the “unmasking” far enough, at least, to be willing and able

to describe their experience. (Tr.)



       -General Ion Antonescu, who became the head of the government formed by the

Legionary Movement after the flight of King Carol in September 1940. In January 1941,

by an act of consummate treachery, he carried out a coup d’etat against his own

government and tried to destroy, by mass arrests and executions, the Legion that had put

him in power. (He was eventually kidnapped and murdered by the Bolsheviks whose

cause he had unwittingly served so well.) Gafencu, therefore, had been in prison almost

ten years when death released him. (Tr.)







It would be untrue to say that the unmaskings came upon the students all of a sudden

and without warning. There were indications of what was to come, none of which foretold

just what would happen, but which psychologically laid the groundwork by weakening

resistance and creating apprehension. In this preparatory stage, the role played by the

prison administration was of the utmost importance. Well ahead of the time that the

trained shock groups were introduced into the experiment, the suggestive method was

used by guards or by director Dumitrescu himself. The students were led to believe that

something monstrous was happening, something was hanging over their heads that none

could escape because it was inevitable.


All students knew that “something” was going on; even though the rooms in which

unmaskings were gradually taking place were isolated from the prisoners’ cells, stifled

screams, groans and shrieks could occasionally be heard. Nobody could learn whence

they came; no one could find out what was happening. Little by little, the conviction grew

within each student that eventually his turn would come. This waiting, this nerve-wracking

uncertainty, was deliberately induced on orders of the political director.


Sergeant Georgescu, an exemplar of unmatched brutality among the guards at Pitesti,

took care, every time he had the opportunity, to give the prisoners grounds for anxiety.


“You bandit, I beat you, but I also feed you. But just you wait, and see what is in store for

you after while ...” And he would point in the direction from which the groans could be

heard. All this contributed to increased tensions, of course, and is well summed up by

the following account by a student who was among the first to undergo unmaskings in the

series that began on Dec. 6, 1949:


“We expected the outbreak while under a dramatic tension. We had no fear in the usual

sense for we knew we could expect anything from the Communists even before we were

brought to Pitesti. Most of us in my cell were prepared to go through any kind of

suffering; we were so sure we would not break down! But, still, we were fearful, with a

strange uneasiness. We did not know just how they would do it; we could not guess the

day it would all start, or who the torturers would be. And then it seemed that we wished,

were even impatient, to go through the coming trial, whatever it might be.


“The climax came, however, when we least expected it, and what was more tragic, from

those we least suspected capable of such treachery.”


The tactic of prolonged anxiety followed by total surprise and the shock of what could not

have been anticipated or imagined was always used, and it never failed.


There was another psychological factor that prepared the destined victims for what was

to happen. The great majority of them were oppressed by an unexplainable sense of

resignation that seemed to create a climate for accepting any kind of torture as a sort of

deserved punishment for some imaginary sin. Not one among the students who talked to

me about this could identify the source of that feeling. One, who had a thorough medical

training, attributed it to physical weakness from insufficient food combined with a

subconscious conviction that resistance was doomed to failure from the start. Without

their realizing it, the students were going through a kind of transition from the world they

had known into one in which life itself was of minimal importance, an expendable



The final element was the shock of utter surprise when the victims found themselves in

the midst of their unmaskers at the critical moment when the attack was suddertly

unleashed. The unbelievable shock probably created in them a state of quasi-hypnosis.







The length of time it took a student to become “rehabilitated” varied from case to case.

There were some, though these were the fewest, who gave in after only a few days.

Others resisted three or four weeks. But for the most of them it required two or three, or

even four months.


Once the student had passed through the whole unmasking, he became a docile,

pathologically fearful creature, willing and even eager to carry out the most fantastic

orders. To verify the degree of his re-education, he was sent, flanked, naturally, by

someone a little more “verified,” to participate in the unmaskings of former colleagues in

other cells. What tortures he had undergone he now must apply to others in order to

demonstrate “by deeds” that he had indeed broken with the past.


Not everyone among the re-educated was charged at once with the re-education of

others. In order to qualify as a “pedagogue,” the student had to meet certain conditions.

The students who were eventually to direct the re-education of others were chosen at the

start of the unmaskings, and were slated to work on fellow members of their own

category[1] when the time came. But those whose past was too strongly anti-Communist,

were denied the privilege of becoming teachers even after they had completed their

pedagogic training. Turcanu would give them the following explanation:


“I know my merchandise; the bandit within you will never be cured. You are encysted

within yourself and only pretend to be re-educated; but in your subconscious you await

the moment when you can go back to what I took you away from. You will never be able

to rid yourselves of the sinful concepts that poisoned your soul. In spite of what you now

appear to profess, you still believe in that other, maybe contrary to your will ...”


Although this statement later proved to be correct in many cases, it was designed to

excite craving for the office of pedagogue; for paradoxically, it was from the most

ardently anti-Communist students that Turcanu eventually chose the “pedagogues” who

turned out to be the most cruel of all the enforcers of the unmaskings. True, the majority

of them are no longer alive, some having died in later years as a result of injuries or

maladies contracted during their own unmaskings, some having been shot when their

existence became inconvenient and they were no longer useful. Here are some



A long time after unmaskings were dropped from the prison routine, as I was walking one

day toward the washroom with a whole group of detainees in Gherla prison, I noticed on

the body of a youth ahead of me red, hideous scars like vertical furrows, up and down

his back. I asked a student whom I had known earlier whether he knew the cause of that

strange deformation. He replied: “That is Cornel Pop, who was a fifth-year student in

medicine at Cluj. The marks on his back were left by unmaskings. He was among those

pressed the hardest, for he was one of the main hopes of the group of which he was a

member.” The speaker’s face was convulsed with sadness mixed with fear. Even though

he was a run-of-the-mill prisoner, any reference to Pitesti made him tremble. Cornel Pop

was considered in Gherla prison as one of the most dangerous spies and denouncers

used by the director, Goiciu, especially among prisoners of Macedonian origin; for Pop

had had a particular fondness for them before his arrest, and had formed friendships

which he now exploited for the benefit of the Communists. The educators had completely

converted him. First a victim and then one of the most savage of sadists, his usefulness

was eventually exhausted, and he was shot after a mock trial before a Communist military



Similarly infamous for their complete conversion and zeal as re-educators were:


Constantin Juberian, also from Cluj; law student; shared the same fate as Pop, after

same trial;


Nuti (Ion?) Patrascanu, from Constanta; student in medicine at Bucharest; either

disappeared or still in prison;


Ion Bucoveanu, from Bucharest; fifth-year student in construction engineering; freed;


Coriolan Coifan, from Turnu-Severin; former artillery officer, later student in construction

engineering; famed for the vigor and accurate aim of the kicks in the stomach he

administered to his pupils;


Eugen Magirescu, student in education at Iasi; perhaps one of the most tortured of

students during unmasking; today probably dead.


Diaca, student in medicine at Iasi; in the habit of boasting that he was criminal by nature,

but actually very much occupied with problems of higher mathematics; often imputed to

himself the commission of crimes, maybe real, maybe invented. He did beat many

prisoners so badly that they urinated blood; freed, he later was arrested anew and

sentenced to 25 years.


Hentes, a high school student from Targu-Mures who underwent his unmasking at

Gherla; together with Ludovic Reck, former secretary of the Communist Youth in

Transylvania and an agent of the Securitate during the Antonescu regime, he killed the

former Socialist congressman Flueras in June 1953 in a ground-floor cell of the Gherla

prison by beating him with sacks filled with sand. Flueras was about 70 years old.


Florin Popescu, from Pitesti, who specialized in torturing the floor sweepers, whom he

forced to kneel on walnut shells, or, lacking these, on sharp grains of sand, whenever it

seemed to him that the floors weren’t scrubbed well enough.


This transformation into torturers seems explicable in the case of those who had no

clearly defined attitudes at the time of their arrest, and who quickly gave in during

unmaskings; but what can explain such a total change in those who at first most

tenaciously resisted? To what can be attributed their obvious malice and malignancy

after they took charge of unmasking others, especially if they had not been made

chairman of an unmasking committee or even accepted into the O.D.C.C.?





       -See above, p. 29f.







The relationship of “unmasked” students to the “patron” O.D.C.C. is not clear. Not

everyone considered re-educated became a member of O.D.C.C. as a matter of course;

in fact, only a very small number were chosen by Turcanu and approved by his unseen

superiors. The exact number of those considering themselves members could not be

learned. Supposedly it did not exceed 50 or 60 out of a total of more than 1,000

re-educated students. It was from these approved “joiners” that committee leaders were

selected to direct unmaskings.


As the number of re-educated grew, using all of them in unmaskings became of course

more difficult. Everything possible was done to ensure that each participated in at least

one such operation, in order to confirm his disintegration into the new state. There were,

on the other hand, always the zealots who carried the load, and were taken from cell to

cell to begin their work anew.


The rest of the re-educated students passed their days according to the established

program. Usually the program came from “above,” namely from the directorate of the

O.D.C.C., but many times it was left to the discretion of cell committees, the leadership

being confident that its underlings understood very well what was permitted and what was



Topics for discussion, once selected, were often assigned to a student to confirm his

degradation, but there were plenty of volunteers who offered to speak on “agreed upon”

subjects out of a desire to put to sleep any suspicions the committee might entertain. In

this manner were organized short theatrical productions in which the old order, or

organizations of which the “creators” were former members, were maligned. Poetry, and

particularly the epigram, was employed in developing the topics selected by the

committee. Out of these efforts came a collection of verses, entitled “The Red Notebook,”

to which several students over a period of three years contributed their work. The student

Sergiu Mandinescu, a quite talented youth, had charge of editing the work, which was

finally presented to the political officer of the Gherla prison, Avadanei, who, in addition to

torturing prisoners, busied himself with being a “patron of the arts.” The collection, as

was to be expected, contained lavish praise of the Communist Party and its early

underground fighters; laudatory poems about machinery in factories; and odes on the

creative nature of prison life which “forged new men.”


Educational discussions were held based on materials prepared by the prison’s

directorate and by O.D.C.C. members. In these, plans of action for further unmaskings

were worked out and various reports of “in the field” leaders of unmaskings were

analyzed. During these “analysis meetings” were scrutinized also the written declarations

of those subjected to torture, especially those concerning the outer unmasking; if found

adequate, they were sent every month to the Ministry of the Interior by special courier.


The fulfillment of this program was supervised by members of the O.D.C.C., a watchful

eye being particularly kept on things which might prove symbolic, resulting sometimes in

quite preposterous situations. Here is an example:


One afternoon a student began humming a popular tune of the 1940’s. From the whole

song, I here give only the refrain:


“But I cannot, and slowly pass the years

Waiting for the buckeyes to bloom again ...”


Just a few common words. But back in 1947 the Romanians had modified the last line,

substituting “Waiting for the Americans to arrive.” Doubtless our music lover was only

humming a tune without thought for the substituted verse, but someone who heard him

shouted, “Unmask!” This was the term used to announce you had something to say about

yourself or someone else. At once, everybody had to stop what he was doing and listen.

“The bandit X sang a song with a hidden meaning; he cannot forget what he was; and he

awaits the Americans to take revenge on the re-educators.” The student in question,

surprised, could not but admit that the bandit within him had not yet disappeared and that

he was guilty and deserving of stringent punishment!


Any slackening in attention to “the new nature” was taken care of by controlling the

rhythm of the unmaskings. When the effect was at a low ebb, those who were still in their

own cells were sent either to other cells where unmaskings were being started, or into

cells where the newly arrived were being held. Here they were required to act as

“confidence men” and obtain all the information they could from the newcomers, which

could be used later when the cudgels were brought out and the re-education began.







After such preparation and under such pressure, Pavlov’s conditioned reflexes worked



The students to be used as the “shock group” in cells whose inmates were to undergo

unmasking were selected by the committee because, through their previous testimony,

they were known to have close friends among the new group and could more easily elicit

information to be used a couple of weeks later to intensify the effect of surprise at the

moment of unleashing the unmasking. Following this dramatic moment of shock, Turcanu

would appear, raise his cap, deliver his discourse, and at a signal, set off the lightning

barrage of bludgeons on the thunderstruck victims.


One cycle was closed, a new one opened. Those who had been tortured were now

torturing those who in their turn were being trained to torture others. This rhythm

increased as the number of trainees increased, and the experiment was extended from

Pitesti to other Romanian prisons.


By the time the amplification was decided upon, the Ministry of the Interior was already

sending political prisoners to the slave labor camps to be worked to death in digging a

navigable canal that would connect the Danube to the Black Sea. The contribution that

students could make to this extermination process looked promising. The December 1949

cycle of mass unmaskings did not provide enough robots to satisfy the demands of the

canal administration. This was mainly because Pitesti had to retain the old trainers to

unmask the increasing numbers being sent there from military tribunals all over the

country. The tempo of the unmaskings was therefore stepped up rapidly to satisfy the

increased demands at the canal. But also, the process itself was being speeded up, as

the directors found they could skip the two weeks of psychological preconditioning

usually given the trainees before the unmasking was initiated. Better results were

obtained, they found, by plunging the victims directly into unmasking, thus preventing

information from the outside being circulated inside their cell. So when a new group of

students arrived, it was sent directly into unmaskings the moment after it was duly

registered on the administration’s books.


The group of students transported from Cluj, mostly from the Law School, may be cited

as an example. They were unloaded into the prison early in July 1950, among them

several students whom I met later Inocentiu Glodeanu, Silviu Suciu, Hosu, Pitea, and

others. They were taken to Hospital Room Four, not given any time to rest, or even for

the “shock group” to elicit information; they reacted violently and fought for hours, but

finally were overpowered by the much larger number of re-educators who imposed the

norm of the new “ethics,” employing the usual methods of torture to illustrate its validity.

Of the four victims I came to know well, three had sustained permanent damage to their



Because of this increased tempo of unmaskings, some errors were bound to be made in

screening detainees for transport to Pitesti. Thus it happened that several youths who

were not even students arrived. One had been an “occasional” student named Opris from

the slums of Bucharest, about 20 years old and by occupation a pickpocket. He had

been arrested trying to slip across the border probably because the Romanian people

had become so poor that his occupation no longer paid! His infraction was considered

political and Opris landed at Jilava, being put in the same cell I used to have, No. 23 in

the second section, in the fall of 1949. Here, he represented himself as a congressman’s

son implicated in an anti-Communist organization, but actually he was busy supplying

information to Director Maromet. He was tried, then sent to serve his sentence at Pitesti

among the students. He went through the usual unmaskings, but what was he to tell? He

“unmasked” his real occupation in the first session, even before being beaten. So he was

compelled to demonstrate how he plied his trade, being presented as a “victim of

bourgeois education.”


Strange also was the inclusion of lawyer D. among students, for his age precluded a

mistake and the Securitate had his complete dossier anyway. He was arrested under

suspicion of being a member of a resistance group led by Colonel Arsenescu; and he

was not brought to trial, but only sentenced to 10 years for defiance of authority!

Perhaps the Securitate sent him to Pitesti hoping to get more information from him via

the Pitesti experiment than they had been able to obtain through the extreme rigor of

normal investigative methods.


The same thing happened to Eugen Bolfosu, the engineer, who was tried by the Military

Tribunal of Bucharest along with a group of students from the Polytechnical School. By

some coincidence, I traveled in the same prison van with him from Pitesti to Aiud in the

winter of 1951; but even though the trip took two days to cover the couple of hundred

miles because, contrary to habit, the van stopped at various provincial prisons for

“pickups”, Bolfosu uttered not more than three words the whole time, and these only

when questioned. Once arrived at Aiud, he was hastily isolated because he had been

brought from Pitesti prison. The political officer visited him several times, but whether or

not he said any more than while being transported I do not know. He did appear three

days later, but his silence was even more pronounced (if this was possible) three months

later when I met him in the workshop.


A high school student from Constanta was also sent to Pitesti by mistake, and his

subsequent transfer to Aiud was also strange, as high school students were usually not

sent there either. He, like the others from Pitesti, would not speak to anyone about what

happened there, even though there was considerable freedom to talk in the workshop in



Much later, I found out one reason for such reticence: Turcanu had given instructions to

all those transferred from Pitesti to Aiud to get in touch with the political officer at once

and tell him anything that might be useful later on in unmaskings of the “old ones”

(politicians of the traditional political parties, and older Legionaries) which he himself was

scheduled to initiate at Aiud, where he thought he would soon be transferred. He

cautioned them that if they talked, they would face a new ordeal of tortures when he








As was only natural, the capital accumulated from the investment at Pitesti could not

remain unutilized. The first Securitate that directly used the “rehabilitated” students in

order to squeeze from the arrestees more than could be gotten by the bludgeon, was that

of Pitesti. A wing of the prison containing a number of cells was placed at the

Securitate’s disposal for use with detainees yet untried, usually members of a group that

escaped arrest on the first raid; or those whose cases were complicated and would

require more time; or those few who still, despite all conventional tortures, had not talked

enough and were sent “into storage.” The “re-educated” students recommended by

Turcanu were put in the cells with these men in the hope that where the Securitate failed

they would succeed.


The method usually followed was very simple. The “re-educated” individual introduced

into the cell had to show several scars from maltreatment, but was to maintain a

prescribed attitude of complete silence, of suspicion toward all the newcomers, and of

refusal to discuss anything with them for fear of “being denounced to the Securitate.”

After a while, when he felt he had by such bearing gained their confidence, he would

approach the person he had been ordered to cultivate, carefully advising him as a

younger neophyte to stay away from everyone, for “you can’t tell whether the one you

talk to might not be a secret agent of the Securitate.” This warning won him the

confidence of his prey when later he gradually inquired into details of the man’s case,

constantly offering helpful advice as to how he should behave when interrogated. Usually

success with the newcomer was certain, especially if he was not a student. Romanians

who had not attended a university had traditionally felt great respect for and trust in

students over the years, and now, when such a man most needed a confidant, a moral

support to help him bear the brutality of his captors more easily, it was the natural thing

to lean on this helpful, respected, and better educated student, giving him full confidence.

Later, during interrogation, he discovered his error, for the interrogator repeated

everything he had told his “adviser” in confidence, but when he was returned to the cell,

his confidant was no longer there.


This method of eliciting secrets from newcomers was used extensively at the Ministry of

the Interior, where several re-educated students were shifted from cell to cell for a year

to act as “advisers” to persons recently arrested. Here are some examples:


The student Caravia was used at the Ministry of the Interior to spy on the group of

parachutists led by Alexandru Tanase in 1953. Freed in 1956 for a brief period, he was

then re-arrested.


At Iasi, then Barlad, then Hunedoara prisons, a former industrial student named Tudose

was evidently a man who got results, for in 1956-57 he was still performing this dirty work

for the Communist regime.


At the Brasov-Codlea Securitate, the student Craciunescu from the Faculty of Agronomy

was used in 1954. He was in charge of stalking the Legionary group that formed a

resistance skeleton in the Fagaras Mountains.


At the Securitate of Constanta, the student Iuliu Anagnostu from the Faculty of Letters in

Bucharest was used for over two years, especially with Macedonian students arrested

throughout villages in Dobrogea. He was responsible for the arrest of a group of over 25

Macedonians in the Mihai-Viteazul village and in Baschioi, as well as for the arrest of

several Turks from around Constanta. He would introduce himself as a Legionary and a

doctor, being neither one nor the other. For services rendered, he was allowed to

“escape” around 1954, then was sent through villages in northern Dobrogea to perform

more services for his masters by posing as a fugitive. Even though he had been

sentenced to 15 years in prison, he was permanently liberated in 1956 when his case

was reheard, while he was “escaped.”


The great plague of denunciations by the re-educated was to cause havoc in the large

so-called “penitentiaries of execution” to which were sent condemned political prisoners

to serve out the sentences handed down by the Securitate after the flagrantly staged

shows called “trials.”







One day in April 1951, after almost everyone in Pitesti prison had undergone

unmaskings, the procedure was abruptly terminated by order. The prison thus assumed

the aspect of any of the ten penitentiaries existing in the “Romanian People’s Republic”

at the time. A new period had begun. Already massive shipments of prisoners were

leaving regional penitentiaries, and the large prisons, bound for the slave-labor camp at

the canal mentioned above veritable human herds driven toward a great slaughterhouse.


From among the students, with the exception of the inept and those who were needed for

further educational labors, those who were under a sentence of 10 years or less were

sent to the canal, where they were promised much. At the same time, new transports of

condemned students continued to arrive at Pitesti, among whom were many high school



Up to this time, the 15 and 16-year-olds had been isolated at Gherla; now the natural

patriotic inclination of the high-schoolers was to be exploited in the foulest possible

manner. Some means had to be found, evidently, to destroy their native patriotism with a

spectacular and definitive breakdown. Since Communist justice does not condemn on the

basis of the infraction committed but according to the presumed potential of the victim in

hand, the sentences pronounced against these children, in the majority of cases, would

have dishonored the most inept or corrupt magistrate in a civilized land.


The approach used in this campaign against patriotic adolescent students was

serpentine: they were induced to “join” the “Legion of Michael the Archangel.” The poor

students did this in good faith, thinking they were in fact becoming members of the

organization through which Codreanu had educated the youth of Romania in Christian

ideals and knightly manhood.


From among the Legionary students who had formerly led the cadres of the F.d.C.

(“Brotherhood of the Cross,” the Legionary Movement’s high-school group), the

O.D.C.C. selected those considered completely “re-educated” and ordered them to begin

organizing the youths into Legionary groups just as though they were outside prison. No

detail of this deception was overlooked. Everything was based on the principles followed

when Legionary groups operated underground, and meetings were held “in the strictest

secrecy.” The high-schoolers responded completely; their adherence and loyalty was

warm, sincere, and total. The preparation lasted several months and by the summer of

1951 they were considered ready to be taken to swear allegiance to the Archangel.


Among the first victims of this satanic game were high school students sent to Pitesti

from the canal work force for disciplinary reasons. Here is how the student, O.C., forced

to “prepare” the high school students, told the story long afterwards:


“One day, into the cell in which we were locked following our unmasking, several young

high-school students were introduced in order that we might prepare them according to

the order received previously through Turcanu. This order was categorical: Establish

their membership, at any cost, in the Iron Guard (synonymous with “Legionary

Movement” and “Legion of Michael the Archangel”), so that ‘the greater the height, the

deeper and more definitive the fall!’ The effect of the unmaskings to come was thus



“I took this assignment with pangs of remorse, even though the human being within us all

had been killed. Who could refuse? From the moment the high school student came in,

the cell took on the aspect it had before the unmaskings; we acted as though nothing had

happened and continued to behave as we had outside the prison in underground activity.

The education began according to the rules: take advantage of their inclination toward

Christian faith. So we taught them psalms and prayers; we discussed theology,

counseled them, taught them how to fast. What seemed more monstrous than the

destruction of our own self-respect, was our being made to eat their food when they

fasted! This, to demonstrate to the re-education committee that we were really cured of

the Christian sickness for good. As for patriotism, we stimulated their natural inclination

by teaching them patriotic and Legionary songs, and instructing them in the laws and

conduct required of any youth wanting to join the movement.


“When their preparation was considered adequate, they were moved to another cell,

where they felt the first hailstorm of the ‘unmasking’ bludgeons.


“The new victims were passed through unmaskings by others than we who had

‘educated’ them. The ‘educators’ were kept in reserve for more difficult moments, should

they arise. When, with all the tortures to which he was subjected, a high-school student

refused to talk, the head of the committee, with a diabolical satisfaction, would bring in

the one who had ‘prepared’ him, for a ‘confrontation.’ It is not hard to imagine the

collapse produced in the soul of a boy less than twenty years old when his counselor, his

model of honor, courage, and integrity but a few days earlier, turned out to be his



My second example is the story told by one who had been one of the young victims.

“Even now,” he said to me, “after having passed through the unmaskings, and knowing

the dirty motive behind this inhuman staging, I cannot yet believe that N., who ‘recruited’

me into the ‘Legionary Movement,’ did everything only because it was ordered by the

re-education committee. There was something in his teaching other than simply the

following of orders an inner compulsion, perhaps subconscious, but sprung from the

soul, that changed everything in moments of truly soulful exaltation. One day, alone in our

cell at dusk, a heart-breaking sadness came over his face and he quit talking, his eyes

turning away to look through the bars at the twilight hills out there. Many times I asked

him to tell me the reason for his sadness but he never would say; when I insisted he

would look at me for quite a while, painfully, imploringly, then would turn away and look in

another direction. Nearly always, after I questioned him, he would start talking about the

new man, the truly Christian man capable of healing wounds not only of the body but of

the Romanian soul. There was so much warmth, even passion, and such sincerity in his

words, that I am convinced that these moments constituted for him the only means of

escape from the infernal cycle into which he had been pushed against his will. And who

knows? Maybe he imagined himself really free and that what he said was not intended to

destroy a soul but out of pure love to help it. In the toughest moments of the unmasking,

even when he was face to face with me and behaved as ordered on that dirty mission, I

could not hate him.


“Later, after the unmaskings, when danger had passed and we could talk more freely, I

was the first one to try approaching him and try to establish a friendship I fondly wanted.

As he had lost much weight due to the lung trouble he contracted, I offered to share the

little food I received, but he refused any help. He even refused to talk to me. I read in his

eyes the same heart-breaking pain I saw in the cell at Pitesti whilst he was trying to

prepare me to orient myself into a life that would follow the insane drama then unfolding.

For two years following this silent encounter he avoided meeting me, although we worked

in the same workshop, on the same shift. I believe his anguish was probably much

greater than mine. After this, he was isolated, and I do not know if he lives or not or

whether he was cured of his infirmity inflicted during the unmaskings. I would give a lot to

be able to talk to him just one single time, if only to convince him that in my heart he

remained forever as he was in those moments while we were together there in our cell.”


Similar accounts were given me by several individuals. Particularly significant, I think, is

the fact that almost all high-school students who passed through this unique experience,

when given the opportunity to turn around and objectively look at the past, clearly

distinguished between the definitely demonic and the humane, Christian and Romanian

aspects of that preparatory phase; between the crushed and terrified prisoners who,

acting by reflex, cozened and betrayed them, and the profound truth of the lessons they

had, for whatever motive, given the victims.


From among the high-school students tortured at Pitesti or Gherla will emerge true

personalities matured by suffering, capable of facing the long darkness to which the

Romanian people are now subjected. They will be able to sustain, in the inhuman

isolation of Communist slavery, the hope of a new generation.


* * * * *


Thus was the cycle completed. The labor of re-education was bearing its fruit. What had

happened to all those who, out of the hope of saving their country and perpetuating the

concept of free men, had sacrificed everything absolutely everything? They had been

changed into a mass of imbeciles by the fear born out of torture and despair; by the

uncontrollable conditioned reflexes that the bludgeon had implanted; by reciprocal hatred;

by quivering dread lest at any time, for any reason or none, from any motive, plausible or

otherwise, they might have to repeat the unmasking. The personality of each individual

had been made to disappear, leaving room for the robot. To speak, to do, to react, to

command it all became simple. Conditioned reflexes appeared at the slightest excitation;

external reality was obliterated, forgotten, on command. The only thing that remained and

was painfully present in body and soul was the anguish. In order to avoid physical and

moral pain, man changed himself feverishly into an animal. What had been moral

certainties before the collapse, became odious dangers, an unbearable nightmare from

which one must escape at all costs.


That is why one confessed imaginary crimes, in order to spread the ash of forgetfulness

over the past, over reality, to complete the dissolution of the self, that could be only the

source of inner suffering, and to substitute for the forgotten past a fictitious one, untrue

but pleasing to those who conducted the experiment of “human metamorphosis.”


The tendency to falsify, imposed at the beginning by the methods of re-education,

becomes later on a kind of necessity in itself. Through a mixing of intelligence with

animal reflexes, of the false with the real, of cynicism with obligatory fanaticism, a person

finds that he can exist only in a fictitious world where everything has been inverted.


Collective madness becomes reality. All commanded vileness and crime will be pursued

in its name willingly and eagerly pursued. This madness will be sustained, nourished

persistently, not haphazardly, but systematically, by a certain logic paradoxical, but

calculated so that it can be used any time, anywhere it may be found useful by its

masters. That is the triumph of Communist science.