70th anniversary of Pitești Communist experiment

Prague, 10 December – In December 2019, 70 years has passed since the cruel re-education programme in Pitești prison started. It was described by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn as “the most terrible act of barbarism in the contemporary world”. The anniversary was marked by a conference organised by the Pitești Memorial, a Platform member organisation, on 10 December 2019.

The conference started with opening remarks by Maria Axinte, the memorial founder and director. The event was attended by Bogdan Gheorghiu, the Minister of Culture and National Identity, who in his address paid homage to former political prisoners and promised the establishment of a museum of Communist atrocities in Romania. Octav Bjoza, State Undersecretary within the State Secretariat for the recognition of the merits of fighters against the Communist regime installed in Romania between 1945-1989 and a former political prisoner himself, in an emotional speech reminded the audience about the fate of prisoners, especially those who were victims of the Pitești phenomenon. The re-education programme was presented by Alin Mureșan, a researcher at the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile (a Platform member organisation).

In the next part of the conference, the history and legacy of the Berlin Wall was presented by Axel Klausmeier, director of the Berlin Wall Foundation and Manfred Wichmann, Curator of Collections at the Berlin Wall Memorial. They donated a fragment of the Berlin Wall, which will be on show at the Pitesti Prison Memorial. Markus Pieper, Head of Memorials and Remembrance Culture at the Federal Foundation for the Study of Communist Dictatorship in East Germany, described the Foundation’s activities connected with documenting memorial sites.

In his short speech dr Łukasz Kamiński, president of the Platform, stressed the importance of the Pitești Memorial: “This place and its history forces us to ask the basic questions, such as: ‘What are our limits?”, “Would I resist this?”, “What does it mean to be human?’ etc. Simply asking those questions is the first step towards becoming a better person. That is why the memorial should be visited by more people from all of Europe in the future.”

After the conference, the freshly printed memoirs of one survivor, Mihai Buracu, were presented by his daughter. The event was followed by a performance by three Romanian artists, authors of the BINOM+1: Pitesti Phenomenon 49/89/19 exhibition, on show at the Memorial: Andrei Bălan (sculpture), Andrei Mușat (fresco) and Dan Adrian Ionescu (video mapping).