In Bucharest: Fort 13 Jilava
According to Stelu Lambru and Călin Coţoiu from Radio Romania International “Jilava Penitentiary was built on the site of Fort 13, which used to form part of a system of fortifications built during the reign of the first king of Romania, Carol I, in late 19th century, to defend the city of Bucharest. To consolidate its rule, the communist government installed by the Soviets in 1945 carried out massive arrests among the democratic opposition and anyone who opposed them.
Jilava became a transit prison where the detainees were interrogated and processed before being sent to other penitentiaries to serve their sentence. The people who were detained in Jilava have dreadful memories of this place. The violent treatment began as soon as they entered the gates of the prison: they had to walk between two lines of guards with clubs, leather thongs or rubber batons that hit them indiscriminately as they walked. Then came the body and clothing search. They were then put into overcrowded cells, some of them holding up of 200 people, where they were introduced to the “snake pit”, the place between the floor and the line of bunks, where they were supposed to sleep, which hardly qualifies as a place of rest. It was called the “snake pit” because of the way in which you had to crawl to get in there.”
Jilava prison is also the place where, on 26-27 November 1940, the Iron Guard of the fascist National Legionary State killed 64 political prisoners. They killed them as revenge for the previous killing of their leader Corneliu Zelea Codrenau. On the other hand Ion Antonescu, the pro-Nazi dictator of Rumania during World War II was executed for war crimes in Jilava in 1946.
Nowadays Jilava is an operating prison while the abandoned Fort 13 Jilava is an historical site which can be visited by appointment. These photos were taken in March 2019 during the visit to Jilava prison organized by the EUROM / European Observatory of Memories and the Faculty of Political Sciences of the University of Bucharest. These two institutions organized the travelling seminar “Romania’s entangled traumatic pasts”.
According to the official website of EUROM this travelling seminar “dealed with the memories of the Holocaust and the communist past in Romania and consisted of a series of speeches and guided visits to some of the most emblematic places of commemoration and memorialization in Bucharest and Jilava. It was co-organized by the EUROM and the Faculty of Political Sciences of the University of Bucharest and included the participation of master students and experts from the University of Bucharest and the University of Barcelona.”