Memorial Sighet

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Memorial Sighet

The Sighet Memorial is a memorial to the victims of communism and anti-communist resistance in Romania . The memorial is located in Sighetu Marmației , in the far north of Romania, right on the border with today's Ukraine (in the communist era on the border with the Soviet Union ), in the building of the former penal institution.

History of origin

The Sighet Memorial was initiated in 1993 by the chairwoman of the Citizens' Alliance, the writer Ana Blandiana , and established and opened over the following ten years. The memorial has been under the auspices of the Council of Europe since 1995 . In a report from 1998, he named the Sighet Memorial as one of the most important memorials in Europe and in the decision of January 2006 condemned the crimes of all communist regimes in Europe.

Until 1997, the memorial was subjected to a lot of pressure from the post-communist government of Ion Iliescu and was publicly branded as a sale of the country's history to Western interests. However, since 1997 the historical image presented there and the institution itself have been officially recognized as of national importance and are supported by the government.


The Sighet Memorial consists of a museum in the rooms of the former political prison in Sighet, as well as the “International Center for Studies on Communism” based in Bucharest , which designs new exhibitions and publishes monographs on the subject. In 1998 the International Summer School for Young People was founded as a further facility of the memorial.


Memorial wall with the names of the former political prisoners

The building, which was built in 1897 by the Austro-Hungarian authorities as a public prison in what was then Máramaros County , was converted into a political prison by the communist regime in 1948 and was feared until 1989 because of the particularly strict prison conditions. The prison acquired its special significance as a prison for the country's elite in May 1950, when 150 political prisoners were admitted (50 more were added later). They included leading church members, top politicians from the illegal democratic parties, former ministers, intellectuals and generals, and later also critical communists. The Catholic bishops Anton Durcovici and Valeriu Traian Frențiu starved to death there in 1951 and 1952 respectively. Particularly prominent prisoners were the politicians Iuliu Maniu from the National Peasant Party and Constantin Brătianu from the National Liberal Party, who were seen as a beacon of democracy in Romania ; Iuliu Maniu and the pro-fascist historian Gheorghe Brătianu died in prison in 1953. Although there was hardly any torture in the prison, a quarter of the inmates died during their detention, as the detention conditions without a heating system, with meager meals and harassment by the guards severely affected the prisoners, most of whom were over sixty. In 1955 an amnesty was issued, according to which the most important inmates were not released, but were transferred to other prisons.

International Center for the Study of Communism

The International Center for the Study of Communism is headed by Romulus Rusan and consists of five departments:

  • the archive
  • the research department
  • the Department of Contemporary Witnesses
  • the publisher and
  • the exhibition department.

Initially, the focus was on interviewing contemporary witnesses. At the same time, the collection of documents, photographs, objects and papers began. This was followed by the establishment of more than 50 exhibition rooms in the museum's former cell wing.

International summer school

The International Summer School of the Memorial to the Victims of Communism was established in 1998. Admission to the courses, which take place every year in July, is based on a previous competition on an advertised topic. The teachers at the summer school are historians, doctors, economists, journalists, political scientists, writers, composers, filmmakers from Romania, Germany, France, Switzerland, Great Britain, the United States, the Czech Republic, Poland, Republic of Moldova. At the end of the summer school, five students will be awarded the Dr. Miron Costin Prize and another five will be awarded the Gheorghe Arvunescu Prize.

The French historian Stéphane Courtois directs the summer school.

Web links

Commons : Memorial Sighet  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Coordinates: 47 ° 55 ′ 37 ″  N , 23 ° 53 ′ 27 ″  E