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

The Fifth Archaeological Campaign in Search of the Graves of the Political Prisoners Dead at Periprava Labour Camp, Tulcea County

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Bucharest, 13 July 2018. The Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile (IICCMER) organises beginning 16 July 2018 the fifth archaeological investigation campaign in Periprava village, C.A. Rosetti, Tulcea County. The operation aims 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 2017, IICCMER organized and undertook four archaeological investigations campaigns within the current cemetery from Periprava. 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.

At the beginning of the ‘50s, Periprava functioned as a section of the Chilia Formation, consequently turning into an independent prison unit on July 1, 1957 (Formation 0830). The official purpose of the colony was to build a 16.5 km long dam between Periprava and Sfiştofca in order to protect the fields about to be cleared of cane from the floods and use them as agricultural surfaces. Another objective was to heighten the road from Periprava along several kilometers. Thus, starting with 1959, thousands of political prisoners were brought to the colony until 1964 when the collective amnesties took place. The undeclared but implied purpose of the transfers was to brutally exploit their work and subject them to an extermination regime. The unfavorable conditions led to the death of 124 prisoners, mainly political, but also common law prisoners.

According to 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.

There are several persons responsible for what happened at Periprava colony, from commanders, departments’ managers, medical and administrative personnel to simple guards. The heads of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the state and party leaders of the time are also to blame, as the applied measures were taken at the top of the hierarchy.

In the previous archaeological campaigns, 31 graves were discovered and analyzed. All the remains were recovered and transported to the Tulcea Institute of Legal Medicine 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.

For this fifth campaign, the aim is to continue the diggings in the local cemetery through the opening and uncovering new archaeological surfaces, which will lead to recovering new remains. The investigations are to be made by a group of the following archaeologists and historians from IICCMER and partners (National Museum of Transylvanian History in Cluj-Napoca, The National Museum of the Union in Alba Iulia, The Museum of History and Natural Sciences in Aiud and The Museum of History in Turda): Horaţiu Groza, Marius Oprea, Constantin Petre, Gheorghe Petrov, Gabriel Rustoiu, Paul Scrobotă, Florin Soare și Constantin Vasilescu.

The investigations will be carried out in the presence of the Bucharest Military Prosecutor’s Office which was previously notified by IICCMER and already opened a criminal file in 2015. The research will also be assisted by specialists from the Tulcea County Police Inspectorate and from the Tulcea County Service of Legal Medicine. The operation is undertaken in collaboration with the Association of the Former Political Prisoners in Romania and the Romanian Television and is supported by the Tulcea Prefecture, The Danube Delta Biosphere Reservation and the C.A. Rosetti City Hall.

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

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.

Photo Tombs of political prisoners discovered during our investigations in 2017