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

UPDATE: The Results of the Fifth Archaeological Campaign in Search of the Graves of the Political Prisoners Dead at Periprava Labour Camp

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Bucharest, 30 July 2018. The Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile (IICCMER) organised during 16 and 26 July 2018 the fifth archaeological investigation campaign in Periprava village, C.A. Rosetti, Tulcea County. The operation aimed to search and recover the remains of the political prisoners, dead at the former labour colony functioning near the village.

During 2013 and between 2015 and 2018, IICCMER organized and undertook five archaeological investigations campaigns within the current cemetery from Periprava. In 2013, during the first campaign, the Military Prosecution Service was not informed, as a consequence, the authorized institutions (The Prosecutor`s Office, The Police Department, the National Institute of Legal Medicine) were not involved, due to the fact that the actions aimed only the probation, not a proper investigation. It was on this spot where, during 1959 and 1964, a large number of deceased political prisoners from the labour camp were buried. The respective area was established through the information provided by the elders of the village, as well as several former employees of the camp. There are currently no visible signs indicating the existence of the graves.

In the recent closed archaeological investigation two diggings were made (S.13 = 23, 50 x 3, 00 m and S.14 = 8, 50 x 5, 00 m) on 113 square meters and there have been identified 11 gravesDuring the five digging campaigns there were executed 11 archaeological sections where 44 graves have been discovered. Among these, according to the inhumation protocols, 41 graves are considered to belong to political prisoners. Three unmarked graves belong to locals who died during the last decades. There is known that they committed suicide and they were buried in the political prisoners` necropolis. Among the political prisoners` graves, there were recovered 40 remains, one of them (M.37/2018) being empty, with the cover out of order. This situation can be explained as follows: the defunct family had the possibility to know the precise place of the grave and they managed to recover the remains.

According to the documentary information, as well as to numerous testimonials of former political prisoners who survived detention in Periprava labour camp, the causes of decease are the following: starvation, cold, lack of drinking water and lack of healthcare, accidents due to the exhausting working environment and due to previous experiences in other detention camps. Some of them were shot in different circumstances, especially while trying to escape. All these were intensified by the living conditions in Delta and the abusive and violent behaviour of the personnel in the labour camp. The unfavourable conditions led to the death of 124 prisoners, mainly political, but also common law prisoners. The majority of the defuncts were buried naked, in wood coffins, in some cases, wrapped in reed mats and tied with filigree. The general state of bones conservation was precarious, many of them lacking the funeral inventory. However, in some cases, vestimentary accessories were discovered, generally buttons, which implied the presence of clothing at the moment of the burial.

The legal procedure, specific to this kind of cases, was followed for all nine political prisoners` skeletons who were discovered and recovered during the recent archaeological campaign. The bones were recovered in the presence of a coroner, then packed and transported to Forensic Medical Service from Tulcea County Hospital and later transferred for specialized analysis to the National Institute of Legal Medicine in Bucharest, where tests are being carried out in order to establish the DNA of the deceased.

The archaeological investigations were made in the presence of prosecutors authorized to investigate this case, namely, colonel magistrate Octavian Toma and colonel magistrate Gheorghe Stanciu, military prosecutors from the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice. IICCMER referred the persons deceased in Periprava labour camp in 2015 and, as a consequence, IICCMER was assisted by Chief Dan Danielencu from Tulcea County Police and dr. Vasile Dașanu from Tulcea County Service of Legal Medicine.

On 26 July 2018, the archaeological site from Periprava was visited by Augustin Lazăr, the General Prosecutor of Romania together with Gheorghe Cosneanu, the magistrate brigade General Gheorghe Cosneanu, Chief of Military Prosecutors` Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice and Octav Bjoza, president of the Association of Former Political Prisoners in Romania.

The investigations were made by the following group of archaeologists and historians from IICCMER: Marius Oprea, Constantin Petre, Florin S. Soare, Constantin Vasilescu, Paul Scrobotă, Gabriel Rustoiu și Horaţiu Groza.

The operation was undertaken in collaboration with the Romanian Television and was supported by The Danube Delta Biosphere Reservation and the C.A. Rosetti City Hall.

IICCMER launches an appeal to the victims` relatives and descendants who died in Periprava labour camp to contact by any means our Institute or directly the coordinator of the investigation, in order to guide them towards the authorities whose role is to identify the recovered remains.

Photos: 1 – Details caught during the operations on Section no.13; 2Open graves M.35 and M.36 discovered in Section no.13; 3 – The General Prosecutor of Romania together with the Chief of Military Prosecutors` Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice and military prosecutors involved in the investigation; 4 – Members of IICCMER team together with state authorities involved in the investigation.

For further information, please call +40721400396 or +40744516108 (archaeologist Gheorghe Petrov, IICCMER expert and coordinator of the archaeological research).