"Beyond Torture": The Pitesti Phenomenon

The Pitesti Experience

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"...you were made to tug each other's genitals or one of them would put his penis in your mouth; if you soiled yourself during beatings you were made to eat your own faeces and to lick the dirtied long-johns or to eat another's faeces from your own mess tin, without being allowed to wash it after that; you were made to kiss each other's bottoms; you were made to urinate in each other's mouths; when you begged for water, you would be given urine from the bucket or they would urinate in your mouth, or others would spit in your mouth; you were made to spit in each other's bottoms and then lick it up; they would wipe a stick smeared in faeces from the WC on your mouth and in your mouth; you were made to stick your finger up your bottom and then suck it."



"However, what has not yet become universal knowledge is the fact that in the Romanian Gulag Archipelago there was an island of absolute horror, such as existed nowhere else in the entire geography of the communist penitentiary system: Pitesti Prison."


"Sexual plays also performed at the orders of Turcanu, naturally. On Good Friday, he shared out the roles: the 'ass' is fellated by 'Mary Magdalene', 'Joseph' sodomises the 'ass', which in its turn stands with its muzzle in the lap of the 'Virgin Mary whore', concomitantly sodomised by 'Jesus'. The re-educated, headed by Turcanu, displayed a diabolical pleasure in mocking the faithful, nicknamed 'mystics'. Such scenes had a terrible effect on the victims, who as a rule found their only solace in faith. However, after participating in the black masses, their entire faith was shaken to its foundations... (...) "


"When the victim was a theology student or a person with a certain religious feeling, he was made to genuflect to the bare bottom of one of the 're-educated', to call that bottom an icon and to kiss it. He would have to label the Holy Virgin 'the great whore' and Jesus Christ 'the great idiot crucified on the cross'. If it was known that the victim loved his parents, Turcanu would provoke him thus: Tell me, X, how did you sleep with your mother? or, Tell me how you caught your father raping your sister? The victim, after enduring the purgatory of 're-education', was never abandoned, but was also drawn into the caste of executioners."


"In the so-called act of depersonalisation, the students were forced, under torture, permanent and unimaginable torture, to betray all they held dear: God, their own parents, brothers, sisters and friends. They were constrained to drink urine and to eat faeces! The human being was thereby annihilated. Disgusted at his weakness, he would never be able to recover himself before his own conscience. The pain was beyond the power of human endurance."



"Then they undressed me (...) What followed is indescribable... beatings on the head to induce stupefaction; beatings in the face, for disfigurement; thousands of blows to the back, below the ribs, in the plexus, on the soles of the feet. Dozens of faints and then all over again, for hours on end, and the eye at the peep hole always watching, always watching. They shattered my ribs, lungs, liver, kicking my bones, my kidneys with shod feet."

(copyright© Alex Serban-http://picasaweb.google.com/3puncte/PuscariePit?authkey=c-fKo2j0N6k#)

Between 1949 and 1951, the Romanian society’s elite was almost complete: intellectuals, diplomats, priests, officers, magistrates, policemen, and politicians of the “bourgeois-landowner regime” were in prison. The industrious peasants were deported to forced labour camps.



(copyright© Alex Serban-http://picasaweb.google.com/3puncte/PuscariePit?authkey=c-fKo2j0N6k#)

Termed “re-education” by the Securitate (Romanian secret police), the Pitesti experiment had the objective of re-educating the victims, the “recalcitrant” young prisoners, away from re-thinking, away from family, away from God and towards communism. Victims were transformed into executioners; prisoners were tortured by their own friends, by their fellows in suffering. The purpose: "re-education" through physical and psychical destruction, the transformation of young people into atheists, into informers on their friends.



Stages of "reeducation"

-These stages involved psychological punishment (mainly through humiliation) and physical torture. Detainees, who were subject to regular and severe beatings, were also required to engage in torturing each other, with the goal of discouraging past loyalties. Guards would force them to attend scheduled or ad-hoc political instruction sessions, on topics such as dialectical materialism and Joseph Stalin's History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Short Course, usually accompanied by random violence.
-“External Unmasking”: Each prisoner was initially subject to regular interrogation. Torture was applied during these interrogations as a way to expose intimate details of his life. They were required to reveal everything they were thought to have hidden from previous interrogations; hoping to escape torture, many prisoners would confess imaginary misdeeds.
-"Internal Unmasking": This second phase required the tortured to reveal the names of those who had behaved less brutal or somewhat indulgently towards them in detention.
- "Public moral unmasking”: where Public humiliation was used. Inmates were forced to denounce all their personal beliefs, loyalties, and values. Notably, religious inmates were dressed as figures of Christ, and all others were required to address them insults; they had to blaspheme religious symbols and sacred texts.
-The inmates were required to accept the notion that their own family members had various criminal and grotesque features; they were required to author false autobiographies, comprising accounts of deviant behavior. Inmates subject to "reeducation" were supposed to work for exhausting periods in humiliating jobs (for example, cleaning the floor with a rag clenched between the teeth). Malnourished and kept in degrading and unsanitary conditions, inmates were prevented from engaging in contacts with the outside world, and forced to cover their eyes in the few instances where they could walk out of their cells.

(copyright© Alex Serban-http://picasaweb.google.com/3puncte/PuscariePit?authkey=c-fKo2j0N6k#)

Who was Eugen Turcanu?

-Romanian political prisoner
-Yet, he has played a crucial role in the Pitesti Experiment. He was initially sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for his membership in the Iron Guard (Romanian far-right movement and political party in the early part of WWII, ultra-nationalist, anti-Semitic and fascist).  He became the leader of a group of detainees whose role was to mistreat and torture inmates, in order to “re-educate” them in the spirit of Marxism-Leninism. He was first imprisoned at Suceava. With a group of prisoners detained also because for their past with Iron Guard, he started various initiatives to win the favour of the Communist authorities.  He was transferred to Pitesti prison on April, 1949. He tried to make himself noticeable to the director Dumitrescu. Tuscanu was then recruited as an informer to the prison management, which made him benefit from a much more favorable treatment to the prison than that accorded to other inmates. He came up with the idea of applying violent treatments on prisoners. Subsequently, Ţurcanu directly participated in the beatings of several hundred detainees. Many of these were nearly killed as a result of the beatings administered by Ţurcanu and his acolytes.

One of his victims later remembered him as "a handsome man, out of the ordinary...with brown hair tending toward blond...when he frowned, you were terrified...his well-proportioned body seemed that of a performance athlete. When he punched or slapped you, he knocked you to the ground. When he got mad he was so crude that he destroyed everything in his path, like a ferocious killer. Moreover, he was unusually intelligent and had an extraordinary memory... But he was so Satanized you didn't know what to think of him..."

(copyright© Alex Serban-http://picasaweb.google.com/3puncte/PuscariePit?authkey=c-fKo2j0N6k#)