Friday, 15 January 2010

The holiday resort built among the ruins of a former communist gulag in Romania

by Kathryn Hadley

Under the leadership of the Stalinist leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej (1901-1965), the Danube-Black Sea Canal was one of the most notorious forced labour sites. Gheorghiu-Dej was in office as the Romanian Communist Party first secretary from both 1945 to 1954 and then 1955 to 1965. The village of Periprava, on the Danube Delta, 19 miles from the place where the northern branch of the Danube empties into the Black Sea and against the old border with the Soviet Union, existed as a communist gulag until 1977. It is estimated that over 100 unidentified bodies of some of the prisoners who died in the camp are buried in the village cemetery. 42 prisoners are believed to have died during the winter of 1959/60 alone.

A tourist resort has now been built on the site of the former gulag by a French entrepreneur, Sylvain Remetter. Guests sleep in the four-star ‘Last Border’ Hotel, which previously housed the office of the commandant of the Periprava Labour and Prison Camp. The first tourist arrived in October.

Remetter allegedly plans to build a small museum in remembrance of the hundreds of prisoners who died in the camp. There is currently no memorial to the dead, however, other than a white cross with no inscription in the cemetery.

Walter Mayr reports in Der Spiegel.
In Coming to Terms with the Past: Romania, Markus Bauer considers how Romania’s new membership of the European Union, in 2007, would enable it to face down the ghosts of its troubled twentieth-century past.

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