Pitesti Prison. Squeezing information out of people. Inspired by the URSS model
It’s not a secret that in most of the communist prison torture was applied, but varied from country to country. Romania, unfortunately, applied one of the worst treatments.
In 1948 the Communism Regin rose to power in Romania, supported by the Russian army. The Communist Party was still small, so it had to eliminate the opponent's political party.
The historical parties got disbanded and most of the leaders were expelled from the country. However, the member that remained had also to be eliminated, as they were still representing a major threat.
In the same year, a massive wave of arrests began. Those targeted, in particular, were the members of the legionary movement.
The beginning of the torture, step by step:
- Suceava prison. First step
- Eugen Turcanu. Main character. Pitesti Prison
- The true goal of the regime
The party focused mainly on high school students, college students, politicians.
Suceava Prison. First Step
In the historical region of Moldova, the main prison of the communist was in Suceava. As more young people got arrested, the idea that no one wants to spend their youth in prison got stronger and stronger, and legionary activist Alexandru Bogdanovic sensed an opportunity.
Alexandru Bogdanovici studied law in college, and thus he was familiar with communism and its political interests. He knew that the regime might take a big interest in a “re-education” program. He contacted the prison administration and began the movement inside Suceava prison.
As Bogdanovici was working for the “re-education” program, a new young fella, named Eugen Turcanu, got imprisoned in Suceava, and quickly show interest in the program.
The differences between those 2 were simple: Bogdanovici (the opportunist) never truly wanted to re-educate nobody. He only wanted to convince people to act as they’ve turned around their political beliefs. The whole movement was only a way to reduce their sentences and get better prison treatment.
Turcanu, on the other hand, was serious about the re-education. He soon started his own movement, convincing the prison administration he is better suited for the job. In only a couple of months, he builds an entire information system within the prison in other to find every piece of information that the prisoners had left out when they got arrested. Through this work, he earned the regime's trust.
Eugen Turcanu. Main Caracter. Pitesti Prison
The communist party, contrary to what Alexandru Bogdanovici believed, wasn’t considering any re-educational program until he proposed it. But once it sensed the opportunity, things kept on growing.
In 1949 Eugen Turcanu and prisoners from all over the country were transferred to Pitesti Prison. Turcanu, working under communists' orders, quickly named 1 snitch to every cell.
But this snitch system proved not as effective as he hoped. All the convicts were educated people who couldn't be tricked into revealing secrets. He took that information to the prison administration and proposed, at the same time, to use violence in other to make people talk.
The administration first rejected the proposal, but the higher command was in need of every information they could get about the legionary resistance in the Carpathian Mountains. Turcanu got a green line.
The first beating took place in the 1st correction room, around November 25, 1949. Turcanu was in charge.
The violence started being used in multiple cells, all organized by Eugen Turcanu, and soon evolved into torture.
The torture was both physical and psychological. The victims were forced to:
- eat feces and drink urine
- beat up their own friends or family
- speak publicly against their own beliefs
- do hundreds of squads, until they couldn’t stand
- sit still for hours in uncomfortable positions
- look straight into the light bulb for hours, while holding their hands above there had (and many more)
Most of the victims were forced to apply the same methods of torture on a new wave of convicts. Pressed by the fact that the torture would have continued if they refused, most of them succumbed to the pressure.
Expansion and end.
Probably orchestrated directly by the director of Security at the time, Minister Gheorghe Pintilie, who was satisfied by the results, the system expanded to other prisons 2 years later. Turcanu formed a few teams, each expected to be transferred to a specific prison.
Those prisons were:
- Danube-Black See Channel labor camp
Besides Eugen Turcanu’s team, the regime appointed, in every one of the prisons mentioned above, a new political leader and a member of the Security. These politically appointed persons had power over the prison administrations and had to facilitate proper conditions for the torture rooms.
In almost every case prison administration agreed with the actions. Prison guards took part in the action, often ignoring the screens or beating people themselves.
Eugen Turcanu’s team had specific benefits in every prison they were sent:
- they had more and better food
- access to most of the prison facilities
- in some cases, they could order the guards
- they had the freedom to move people from one cell to another at any time
Fortunately, the “Pitesti Method” was not entirely applied in other prisons. Most of the country’s administration was not aware of the tortures, and soon as the movement expanded, word started to travel.
More European Countries found out and accused the Romania Communism Regim of cruel acts against human rights, and so the party was a force put an and to the tortures. Soon, a trial against those who initiated the movement began.
The trial was actually fake and followed an agenda. Some of the convicts that tortured were sentenced to death, Eugen Turcanul being the most important and cruel of them.
Only a very small part of the information obtained from the torture was real. Most of them were fabricated by detainees because of the torture that continued right after the testimony. The regime, for the most part, was more concerned with the number of information sheets than with their quality.
There is still much missing information about how the torture began. The State archive mostly contains fabricated information of sheets of paper containing the agenda of the trial.
The regime never believes in any re-education.
Most likely, the communist system was interested in eliminating elites who could have posed a threat. At that time the legionary resistance in the mountains had not been completely eliminated.
The torture evolved so much it even took lives. When Gheorghe Pintilie heard about the first deaths and suicides he only ordered that this should be avoided because covering up a crime and hiding a dead body was too difficult and too risky.
During the imprisoning time, their families knew nothing about them. Visits were not allowed.
After the fall of the Communist Regim in 1989, many of the victims that had survived refused to talk about what happened in the prisons. The only ones who could tell the story were the only ones who were strong enough to rebuild their life back.
When a convict got released, he was still followed at all times. The Security never let them live their lives in peace, continuously treating their freedom.
Besides political convicts, other victims were priests and people who illegally tried to cross the frontier.