Romanian institute will piece together history of political prisoners who restored Art Nouveau casino


A government agency tasked with investigating the crimes of communism says it will piece together the history of political prisoners who labored under harsh conditions to restore a casino after it was bombed by the Germans during World War II.

The Institute for Investigating the Crimes of Communism said Tuesday it was embarking on the “major project” of collecting the memories of the prisoners who were sent to work on the casino in the Black Sea of Constanta at the beginning of the 190s.

It said “after 70 years, a note signed by 16 detainees was found hidden in one of the walls of the building during rehabilitation work. The piece of paper ripped from a sack of cement is dated 31, December, 1951,”

On May 9, during renovation work on the casino, restorers found a scrap of paper with the names of 16 political detainees buried in one of the walls.

The note, written in fine calligraphy,  didn’t say much beyond the date and the names of the detainees.

“It’s possible that there are other messages in the casino walls waiting to be discovered to take their rightful place in history.”

The agency said planned to carry out “ a professional investigation,” that will entail gathering the biographies of prisoners that were listed in the note, including where they were sentenced, for what and what happened to them in detention.

The men were political prisoners at the Poarta Alba labor camp, sentenced and convicted after they’d fallen afoul of the newly installed communist regime. They had been deployed to the casino to rebuild it after it was bombed by the Germans during World War II.

According to testimony, the work was grueling. The prisoners worked from 14-16 hours a day and slept outside, eating what they could find. Reports said they ate animal organs when there was nothing else available.

The institute said it would put on a permanent exhibition dedicated to what happened including testimony that was buried there and other documents related to the renovation work carried out by political prisoners there.

The institute proposed drawing up an agreement with the Constanta city hall and the Association of Former Political Prisoners.

Head of the institute. Alexandra Toader met Apollon Cristodulo, the son of Ion Cristodulo , who was appointed chief architect on the project.

An estimated 500,000 Romanians were sentenced to prison for political reasons where they endured cold, hunger, beatings, psychological torture and a lack of heat often because they had simply fallen afoul of the communist regime.

The institute which was set up in 2005 by former Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu received national and international acclaim under its former director Andrei Muraru, who is currently an adviser to President Klaus Iohannis.


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