Memorie.al publishes some of the unknown stories that took place in the camps and prisons of the communist regime of Enver Hoxha, such as the camp of the Laç Superphosphate Plant in the early 1960s, the Cement Factory camp in Fushë Krujë, the camp of The Cement Factory in Elbasan, the Spaç camp, etc., where hundreds of thousands of conscientious objectors suffered their sentences, some of whom lost their lives in those camps, being killed by soldiers, accidents, and so on. committing suicide from difficult living and working conditions. The rare testimony of writer and publicist Tanush Kaso, a former political prisoner who spent years in these camps and prisons, for his accomplices who lost their lives in the Elbasan Cement Factory camp from disease, torture and gunfire of military and police guards, such as: Myzafer Damnori from Shkodra, Ali Maliqi from Dibra, Reshat Ago from Berat, Mit’hat Allushi from Ducati of Vlora, the executioner doctor of the State Security with the rank of major, Filip Çunga, who instead to heal the prisoners, send them to the dungeons where they were tortured, the convicts of the Spaç camp who were mutilated from work in the mine like Hamdi Popovci from Kosovo, Gani Qeraxhiu from Elbasan, those who managed to escape from prison and were caught, such as Lefter Balldovani from the Greek minority and Rexh Alia from Kosovo, as well as the types of physical and psychological torture used during Enver Hoxha’s communist regime in camps and prisons, the Internal Affairs Branch and the State Security cells.
Continued from the previous issue
In the Elbasan Camp
There in that camp at that time, we were about 1000 political prisoners and the camp buildings, which consisted of some wooden barracks, were erected very close to the worksite. They were located very close to each other, creating a rectangular courtyard in the middle. Both the camp and the workplace were surrounded by a high barbed-wire fence and numerous bodyguards. That siege was occasionally checked for his safety by officers and the camp commander. The families of the prisoners did not find it easy to get there, as they had to walk several kilometers between bushes and bushes, through mud and canals, and other obstacles. The command occasionally carried out checks on books and prohibited items. Once upon a time, there were controlled movies with auto cinema coming from Elbasan. The works there were led by Chinese and Albanian specialists. At that time there was a bread crisis all over the country, which was felt more in the camp. After politics, “potatoes came to the fore.” Only 300-400 grams of bread and the rest of the potatoes were given. The bread was also cooked mixed with potatoes. The prisoners suffered greatly from starvation, and some of them fell ill because they could not eat the potatoes. Luckily it didn’t last long, only a few months. The health service in the camp was in deplorable condition. When any of the convicts became seriously ill, they could take him to the hospital in Elbasan or Tirana. Myzafer Domnorin, a former teacher from Shkodra, who became ill with jaundice, was sent off very late and died at the hospital. Another former teacher, from Berat, Reshat Ago, was killed by the guards of the siege of work, after it was too late to line up and enter the camp, at a time with friends. An old prisoner, highly respected and respected by his comrades, Ali Maliqi (Agolli), from Peshkopia, was killed a few months before his release by a fellow provincial. Twenty-year-old Mitat Allushi, from the Duchy of Vlora, was killed by the guards of the siege of the camp, a few meters beyond the barbed wire, which he managed to cross. They were able to catch him, but they did not want to. The guard who killed him was rewarded by the command. This sparked a general revolt in the camp. On this occasion, some were transferred to Burrel. For the rest, the abuse began: beatings, solitary confinement, family visits, and so on. We must say that at this time, an attempt was made to organize a mass exodus from the camp, but it was too late and fell on the Command’s ear. The Security operatives: Remziu, a friend and fellow villager of the former Minister of Interior, Kadri Hazbiu, and Fehmi Mullaj, from the villages of Korça, are known for their ferocity in this camp. They were not followed by the so-called doctor, Major Filip Çunga, who instead of healing the prisoners, beat them and sentenced them to solitary confinement. Many prisoners, including me, have tried his hand at it. Just because I unmasked one of his agents, Brigadier General D.DH., the “doctor” put me “in the clarification room,” where my uncle jumped and sentenced me to one month in prison. There, among others, I found Ali Hoxha, who had also been “cashed” by Major Lipja and had been sentenced by him to one month in prison for punching a brigadier who was mistreating a friend of ours who was powerless to work… The fraternal spirit, the conversations, the jokes, the songs sung in a low voice, and the distant memories, eased our suffering of isolation. Ali longed for a daughter he had once known as Margarita. Created a melody in her memory. I knit the verses. Thus was born “Margarita”, a song that became very dear to us and that would accompany us as “Lili Marlen”, in the long and painful march towards freedom. The song was a challenge for prisoners of war.
At the Spaç Camp
The Italians and later the Soviets had designed the opening of several mines in the province of Mirdita, for the exploitation of the underground rich in copper and pyrite mines. One of these was the spa town, a rugged mountain village. After the break-up with the Soviets, the work was continued by Albanian engineers and geological technicians. Many research galleries were opened and the ground was prepared for the exploitation of the ore. In 1967, the Ministry of Internal Affairs found the construction of a forced labor camp in that deep mountainous area, in a pit where the sun could be seen only a few hours a day. About a hundred political prisoners were initially sent, who completed the remaining work, surrounded a large area with barbed wire, where the galleries were located, and the “death pit.” It was there that they built the camp where the state slaves would be housed, who would work three shifts and extended hours, through deep galleries, with dust, gas, humidity, and the danger of life on top. After them, tied two by two with wire and thrown like animals on the bodies of some military trucks, accompanied by armed guards with automatic and machine guns, at the beginning and at the end of the convoy, they traveled from the camp of Elbasan to Spaç of Merdita, several hundred political prisoners. During that arduous journey of more than a hundred kilometers, the cars did not even stop to carry out the personal needs of the prisoners. After many years, it was the first time that political prisoners were sent to work in the mines. There were reactions from them and some categorically refused to work in the gallery and went on a hunger strike. The one who stood out for the longest resistance in the strike, about fifteen days, was Dilaver Radëshi, (from the village of Radësh i Skraparit), a man respected and respected by all. He had been a colonel in the army, and only because he had openly expressed his views on the wrong strategy of the bunkers, had he been imprisoned. Others tried to avoid the gallery with a medical report; but even these were not taken into account by the camp command, which was requested by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the realization at all costs of the copper and pyrite plan. She, therefore, added to the violence against prisoners who refused to work underground. The beating was one of the most common forms of torture. Also the punishment of isolation in the dungeon, without blankets and with a minimum of food, under the frost of the harsh winter; sometimes during the day with the police on top, in the gallery and at night in the cell for months. The gallery was not pleasant, not even for the police officers who had escorted us to other camps and forced them to come to Spaç. They did not dare to go deep into the ground. When a piece of rock detached from the ceiling of the gallery (or when a prisoner deliberately threw it away), they were the first to flee to escape the skin. The command soon transferred them and replaced them with former miners wearing uniforms, without any specialization. Most of them were ruthless animals. The most humane people, such as “Murgesha”, a Mirdita with a feminine face and quite soft, could not stay long in uniform. “Lleshi i zi”, Chapter Prenga and others was known for their ferocity. The camp commander was Çelo Arrëza, while the Commissioner, Shahin Skuraj, who was later replaced by Niko Kolitari, nicknamed “Zgërbonja”. The number of prisoners in this camp, which remained open for a quarter of a century, ranged from 800 to 1,200. Even in that camp, perhaps much more than in other camps, there have been constant work accidents. I remember now Hamdi Popovci from Peja, Gjakova, who was left with one leg, (after prison he returned to Kosovo), or Gani Qeraxhiu, from Tirana (now in the family in Italy), who remained paralyzed all his life… There were also many cases where convicts died of occupational diseases. There were also several attempts to escape, such as the case of the young man, Mustafa Bajraktari, a very energetic and intelligent boy from Tropoja. Taking advantage of the blocked exit of an old and forgotten gallery, he managed to escape but was caught near Puka and re-convicted. Then there were two more attempts with the convicts, Lefter Balldovani, from the Greek minority and Rexh Alia, from Mitrovica, Kosovo, who passed the siege but were captured without going too far. After being brutally beaten by the camp’s police forces, they were taken to court and re-sentenced. Lefter, who was a very good and very suffering boy, later died in prison. Due to the very inhumane conditions in that camp, sometime later a very big revolt broke out which is already known as the “Spaç Revolt”.
Torture in Albanian cells and prisons during the communist dictatorship
Torture has been used since the beginning of human society. In Europe, it reached its peak during the Inquisition. Torture was used as the main tool of terror in the Soviet Union and other communist countries in Eastern Europe. Under the UN Convention of 26 June 1987, torture is defined as:
“Torture is any act by which a person is intentionally inflicted with pain or severe physical or mental suffering, with the intention of obtaining information or allegations, to punish him for an act he has committed or is suspected of has committed, to intimidate or to put pressure, or for any other motive ”. In the former Soviet Union, torture had become commonplace, forcing the great Russian writer Mikhail Sholokhov to turn to Stalin. On April 1, 1933, in a letter, he wrote, among other things: “Policemen in the North Caucasus stripped the villagers naked and left them for hours in the midst of an unbearable cold” (The Black Book of Communism).
The communist dictatorships used the most horrific tortures, extracted from the archives of the Inquisition, the ancient Asian countries, and the Greek Byzantines. In “socialist” Albania, demagoguery was said to be: “the exercise of torture on the investigator and in prison was prohibited by law.” This was cynical hypocrisy, used for propaganda purposes. In reality, torture was used everywhere, in the cells of the investigation and in the places of punishment. From the moment of his arrest, the detainee was subjected to torture. In most cases, a black bag was placed on the head of the detainee and his hands were tied behind his back, tightened to the maximum. The tortures were varied, from the most primitive to the most modern. There they varied according to the person where they were used and the place where they were practiced. From an eyewitness, it has been stated that since the time of the Anti-Fascist War, Yugoslav missionaries at Albanian partisan military units have used torture against “enemies” of the communist cause. In September 1943, in the village of Surel in Tirana, Dushan Mugosha grabbed a living man and wiped the blood from the knife on his lips. He called on the partisan cadres present to act like him against any “enemy” of communism. In Devoll, Korça, a 15-year-old partisan who had been illegally detained for several days by the fighting unit, Dushan Mugosha, ordered that his hands and feet be tied and that he be stretched out. With an iron rod, he began to strike with all his might, breaking his limbs. The 15-year-old partisan breathed his last under the terrible pain caused by the blows. In the village of Shipckë in Korça, numerous bodies of people tortured by communist forces were found, with horseshoes nailed to their feet and hands.
In the National Historical Museum in Tirana, in the “Communist Genocide Pavilion”, a table counts 20 types of physical torture, which were used in the prisons of the Enver dictatorship. They were:
The torture vest.
Injury to the genitals.
Leaving without bread, without water, without sleep on foot for days.
Using an electric current, until the loss of feelings.
Hanging necklaces of heavyweight chains.
Hanging from the wings, tied back to a window or hook at such heights that only the toes touch the ground.
Filling the mouth with salt.
Sending ostensibly for firing squad, weapon emptying and hoisting on the hanging tripod.
Dip head down into barrel with water.
Burning meat with cigarettes, or with fried iron.
Throwing alcohol in his hands or hair and lighting it.
Bone fractures and pulling of meat with tongs.
Giving salted food and then leaving it without water.
Putting the convict in cold water and leaving him wet in the winter.
Gradual reduction of food, to cause death after a certain time.
Use of chemicals for harassment, or damage to the nervous system.
Special helmets on the head, so that the prisoner does not commit suicide.
Bonding with hand and foot handcuffs, indefinitely.
The use of bee hives against naked prisoners.
In this table are “forgotten” to list the following tortures:
Torture of indefinite isolation. It has caused the physical destruction of the detainee, blindness, up to the loss of speech.
Cabinet and iron coffin.
Throat insertion into the fecal pit (this torture has been used in reclamation camps).
Connection to concrete pillars in places exposed to the sun, until death.
Torture with the tightening of German handcuffs, which has caused paralysis of the hands.
Rape of family members in the eyes of the detainee.
Border dog bites on those trying to escape (this torture took place at border posts)
Iron bed (the prisoner was laid naked on the iron bed, which was gradually heated)
Inserting a cat into a women’s dress and harassing them with a stick to damage their genitals and other parts of the body.
Pumping through the anus.
Dental torture (fracture and removal of teeth and teeth without numbness).
Throwing burnt oil on the naked body.
Laying boiled eggs under the armpits.
Removing nails with pliers.
Breaking nuts, on the victim’s head.
Crack meat with knife and salt filling.
Walking barefoot over the burning embers.
Intravenous injection into the victim, which caused the victim to develop hemolysis, which caused the patient unbearable pain until death.
The bullet wound infliction, with the iron rod of the rifle (used by pursuit forces against fugitives wounded in the attempt).
In addition to physical torture, psychological torture was used against prisoners to destroy the victim’s personality.
Some of the psychological tortures commonly used in dictatorship cells and prisons
Deprivation. This torture consisted of the victim’s deprivation of sensory sensations: sleep, contact with humans, natural and artificial light. He was deprived of bathing (shower) as well as performing physiological needs. The torture tortured the victim with nervous depression and hallucinations.
Threat. The victim was constantly threatened with torture, murder, and the destruction of his family and friends.
Humiliation. The victim was humiliated by the investigator by mocking him, sharing with more serious words, not only him but also the relatives of the victim. They were forced to drink urine and eat their feces. The psychological tortures were varied and innumerable.
The physical and psychological torture mentioned above is just one part of the torture used against victims during the 45-year communist dictatorship. During the investigation, the victims tortured them not only to obtain the necessary information from them but also to physically and mentally destroy them. Thousands of detainees pleaded not guilty to “torture” to avoid “torture”. Dozens more committed suicide to escape torture. Hundreds of detainees have lost their lives during torture or lost their mental capacity for life. We are mentioning some of them: Taho Sejko, Hajri Mane, Sulë Domi, Mitat Ciu, etc., have committed suicide to escape torture. Myzafer Pipa, Pal Zefi, Hiqmet Roshi, Arif Kazazi, Dedë Pjetri, etc., died during the torture. Ali Goxhaj, Qemal Gega, Petro Rondo, Kujtim Çuni, Fadil Kokomani, Hajri Pasha, and others, remained mad forever. It should be noted that: Fadil Kokoman and Hajri Pasha were shot several years later, being insane.
The torture was intended not only to physically and spiritually destroy the victim but also to use the victims to terrorize the rest of Albanian society living outside the prison bars, as such actions took place in 26 administrative districts of Albania, where there were 26 Branches of Internal Affairs. In Tirana, Korça, and Shkodër, they were at a higher rank and were called the Director of Internal Affairs. In each Branch of each circle, there were a number of cells with dimensions 2 m. x 1.20 m. In addition to these, there were “special” cells, with dimensions of 1 m. x 0.5 m. x 1m, where the detainee could neither lie down nor stand on his feet, but only sitting, cross-legged. The number of cells was from 30 to 100 for each Branch, while in those of Shkodra and Korça, there were over 100 cells. Tirana, in addition to the cells near the Directorate in “Rruga e Dibres”, at “Selvia”, had cells in the four police regions, on the ground floor of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in the basements of the Palace of Brigades; in the new and old Prison and the so-called “Koçi Xoxe Cells”.
Also, in Tirana and in many cities in Albania, there were “secret” cells with cells, which were used for the mysterious affairs of the State Security. According to former State Security General Halim Xhelos, who mysteriously died in prison, there were more than 500 cells in Tirana alone, where thousands of detainees were tortured. General Nevzat Haznedari, director of the investigation branch at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, has been mentioned as the master of torture for a period of 20 years./Memorie.al