Shortly after the end of World War II the majestic medieval citadel of Oradea had sadly become one of the dreaded instruments of repression for anti-communist revolt.
Shortly after the end of World War II the majestic medieval citadel of Oradea had sadly become one of the dreaded instruments of repression for anti-communist revolt. In one of the wings of the princely castle lying at the center of the citadel, a transit concentration camp for political detainees had been set up, between 1947 and 1952. It was from here that the convicts were loaded on a train and taken to penitentiaries in Targu Jiu or Timisoara.
Also, the concentration camp was a “dispatch point” to the USSR of ethnic Germans. Of the 96,000 ethnic Germans who were dislocated from Romania, loaded onto over-crowded cattle or freight cars and carried all the way to the remotest corners of the USSR, hundreds of people were taken from Oradea as well. In the memory of those who fought against communism and were imprisoned in Oradea, a memorial was set up in the old citadel, titled “Resistance and repression in Bihor”, in fact the outcome of the joint work of Oradea Municipality, the Institute of the Investigation of Communist Crimes and “The 40 Martyrs Association.”
Cristina Puscas is one of the curators of the aforementioned museum. She will now be speaking about the museum: “The ‘Resistance and Repression in Bihor Memorial’ is, unfortunately, one of the few dark chapters of Romania’s history. This memorial reminds us of the time of the communist prisons, it is especially dedicated to people from Bihor who did time in those prisons, but also to convicts elsewhere across the country who were imprisoned, albeit temporarily, in the Oradea penitentiary. This memorial needs to be known especially by youngsters, so they may understand a totalitarian regime, so they may understand what the fight for freedom, for faith, for democracy, means. It is also dedicated to former political detainees for whom very little has been done. Sadly, very little has been done to keep the memory of those people alive. That is why the memorial seeks to mark, on Romania’s map, which is a bloodied map, one of the more than 250 anti-communist repression centers across the country. Unfortunately, only a few of those centers have been turned into memorials, save for the centers in Sighet, Pitesti, Gherla and Oradea, as well as some other centers. But there’s still a lot of work to be done”.
Until then, however, in Oradea, people can visit the interactive exhibition displayed as part of the ‘Resistance and Repression in Bihor’ Memorial. Lists including names of detainees who were temporarily imprisoned there are on display, as well as boards offering more detailed information on some of them.
Traian Bodea was one such convict, and with details on that, here is Cristina Puscas once again: “He was arrested when he was 15. In 1956, the year of the Hungarian revolution, he was hanging posters in Beius, urging people to revolt. That 15-year old youngster was arrested and brought to the Securitate in Oradea. The interrogator, whose name was Eugen Lacatis, handcuffed him and at one point during the interrogation he stubbed out his cigarette on his wrists”.
Another method which was used to punish and crush the revolutionary spirit was putting people in ‘the hole’, a special cell which was recreated in the Oradea Citadel.
Speaking about that, here is Cristina Puscas once again: “The hole was a punishment cell, it was some sort of prison within a prison, with no light, no bucket, no bed, with water flowing on the floor. According to documents of the time, the camp was in fact located exactly on the opposite direction. It’s just that in that building I could not set up such a memorial, because the space was too limited. But in effect, the entire perimeter of the citadel was a repression center.”
Temporarily serving time in the Oradea concentration camp were also people involved in the Bihor peasants’ revolt against cooperativization in 1949. Back then, some 24 people had been identified as being shot during the repression of the revolt. And also in the Oradea concentration camp was imprisoned Arlette Coposu, Corneliu Coposu’s wife. Coposu was a prominent political figure who in turn had survived the communist confinement system after 1990 and who reorganized the traditional political party known as the National Peasant Party.