November 12, 2008

From Victim to Torturer
Piteşti, Romania

More wild atrocities from Romania's past. The scene is here in Piteşti, about six decades prior. Lonely Planet does a pretty good job writing it up:

From 1949 to 1952 a unique and experimental 'student re-education program' was introduced in Piteşti, Gherla and Aiud prisons as a means of torturing political prisoners. The program was implemented by Eugen Turcanu, an inmate at Piteşti prison, acting on the orders of the Securitate. Turcanu rounded up a core team of torturers from among his fellow inmates.

'Re-education' induced tortured prisoners to become torturers themselves. The first stage of this grotesque process involved the prisoner confessing all this crimes and 'anti-state' thoughts that he'd failed to reveal earlier to Securitate interrogators. He then signed a declaration in which he consented to his re-education. Scrubbing floors, licking toilets clean and being beaten to unconsciousness were just some of the persuasive methods used.

Religiously inclined prisoners, dubbed 'Catholics', where baptized each morning with a bucket of urine. Others were forced to don a white sheet in imitation of Christ and wear a penis carved from soap around their necks. Fellow prisoners kissed the soap pendant and the prisoner was flogged by other inmates in imitation of Christ's ordeal on the road to Golgotha.

Next, the victim was forced to disclose the names of fellow inmates who'd shown him kindness or sympathy. He then had to renounce his own family, 'reviling them in such foul and hideous terms that it would be next to impossible ever to return to natural feelings toward them', according to one former political prisoner.

In the final stage of the program, victims had to prove their successful 'regeneration'—by inflicting the same mental and physical abuse on new prison recruits. If they refused they were driven through the program again. Those who slackened in their new role as re-educators spent time in the prison's incarceration cell, black room or isolation cell.

The incarceration cells were 6-foot-tall upright coffins with a small hole for ventilation. One or two prisoners had to stand in these cells for eight to 15 days. The black room was nine feet square and windowless. Up to 30 prisoners were detained here for a maximum of three weeks without water. Isolation cells were reserved for sentences of three months or more, and many prisoners kept in these cells died of tuberculosis.

In 1954 Eugen Turcanu and 21 other prisoners were secretly tried and sentenced to death for the murder of 30 prisoners and the abuse of 780. The Securitate denied all knowledge of the program.

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