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The Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile

The Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile resumes diggings at Aiud Penitentiary to recover swords of inestimable historical value

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Penitenciarul Aiud

The Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile (IICCMER), in partnership with the National History Museum of Transylvania from Cluj-Napoca (MNIT), organizes, starting from Thursday, 23rd of May 2013, a new campaign of archaeological investigations at Aiud Prison, one of the roughest prisons in the communist repressive system, to search, discover and recover several swords from the national heritage, that were hidden inside the prison by former political prisoners. This operation continues the investigations campaign started in October 2012.

The swords were hidden in an area of the building were the forge workshop used to operate. These swords belonged to members of the former Royal Army and were confiscated after the instauration of the communist regime, along with the orders, medals and decorations of the former militaries, some of which had been given by the Romanian kings or by military leaders for acts of bravery on the battle fields of the two world wars or on other military events. The swords were collected and brought to Aiud prison in order to be destroyed and have the recovered material used to manufacture objects like hedging knives, pocket knives etc. Some of the political prisoners who were working at the forge shop at that time (Gheorghe Popescu from Vâlcea, Savu Popa from Ocna Sibiului and Gheorghe Martău from Bâlta Village, Gorj County, and later on Tiberiu Hentea, from Sibiu) realized that the communists were committing a “sacrilege” by destroying these swords, real treasures and national symbols. Thus, the prisoners planned to save a part of them, choosing the ones that were special, holding various heraldic inscriptions and representations. The secret of these high-risk activities was kept by the persons involved until the fall of the communist regime. The first public statements about these facts were made in 1993 by Savu Popa and Tiberiu Hentea. The case presented a special interest at the time and an operation to search for these swords was organized for these swords, which had modest means and did not lead to their discovery. These weapons are objects of national heritage with a priceless historical, symbolic and artistic value and attempting to recover them is a duty of honor for the Romanian state. The search for these heritage objects is based on testimonies and two drawing plans hidden by the former political prisoners, all currently deceased, and also on some information from former guards of the prison. The recovery of such historical pieces can be considered as a recuperation of a part of the nation’s history which has been deliberately destroyed by the communist authorities.

”Searching for this heritage objects implies a substantial effort from IICCMER, but we strongly believe it is our duty to do this. Both from a scientific and an identitary point of view, the swords of the Romanian generals represent a part of this nation’s past, a part which the communist regime tried to destroy in its constant attempt of annihilating all historical and cultural symbols”, said Andrei Muraru, Executive President of IICCMER.

The IICCMER operation is undertaken in partnership with the Mayoralty of Aiud, Aiud Penitentiary, the Aiud Enterprise of Metallurgical Processing and the Museum of History and Natural Sciences from Aiud.

The archeological investigations are financed by IICCMER, with the support of the Aiud Mayoralty. The research will be undertaken by a team of archaeologists and historians coordinated by Mr. Marius Oprea, Head of the IICCMER Special Investigations Department. In the field, the operation will be led by Mr. Gheorghe Petrov, expert archaeologist at MNIT Cluj and IICCMER, alongside archaeologists Paul Scrobotă, director of the Aiud History Museum, Gabriel Rustoiu, director of the Union National Museum in Alba Iulia and Horaţiu Groza from the Turda History Museum.

For further information regarding this operation, please contact Mr. Gheorghe Petrov, tel: 0721.400.396. Communication will be possible by phone  only before and after the daily program because the use of mobile phones inside the prison is forbidden.

Media representatives can gain access to the prison by sending a written request addressed to the direction of the penitentiary unit. The request, stating the name of the persons, identity card information, recording devices (audio recorder, photo and video cameras), as well as the purpose of the visit (participating in archaeological research), can be sent in advance by email at paiud@anp.gov.ro, or by fax at 0258.863.575. The request can be filled at the main gate of the penitentiary on 7-9 Morii Street, but please note that in this case there is a waiting period. Entering the penitentiary with mobile phones is strictly forbidden. These must be left at the gate or elsewhere. For further information regarding the regulations for entering the penitentiary, please contact Mrs. Chief Inspector Nicoleta Mătărângă, spokesperson of the unit at tel. 0745.315.404 or by calling headquarters at 0258.861.021 and 0258.861.774.

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About IICCMER
The Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile (IICCMER) is a governmental body which studies, documents and supports public awareness of the history of communism in Romania, through research, education, publishing and museum projects. IICCMER analyzes the nature, purpose and effects of totalitarianism in Romania during 1945-1989, but also the memory of the Romanian exile.

The Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and Memory of the Romanian Exile (IICCMER) coordinates several unique project in recent history, such as archaeological campaigns for discovering the remains of the victims executed without trial by the Securitate, Râmnicu Sărat Memorial Museum – a former prison for political prisoners, the International Summer University on the study of Romanian communism, the first textbook on the history of Romanian communism, photo collections – the largest free online database with photos from communism, the MA program in the study Romanian communism, the Romanian exile archives, media projects of documentary films etc.

In time, IICCMER became a prestigious research center in Europe, through which Romania explores and acknowledges the communist past, clarifies its role in the twentieth-century European history and promotes democratic values within the modern society.