Romania investigates ‘orphanage of terror’ in which ‘340 children died, some of neglect, during Communist era’

The complaint, made to the Romanian Institute for Investigating Communist Crimes, follows a report on at least 771 children who died in three facilities from 1966-1991

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2018, 2:42am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2018, 2:44am

Romanian prosecutors opened an investigation on Monday into an “orphanage of terror” in the north of the country where researchers allege 340 children died during the communist era.

The Romanian Institute for Investigating Communist Crimes (RIICC) brought a complaint which prompted the probe, claiming the deaths were partly due to neglect.

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Researchers say the 340 children died between 1980 and 1989 in the orphanage in the city of Siret. Opened in 1956, the facility hosted 8,500 children with neurological disorders until it was closed in 2001.

This is the second criminal complaint filed in the last two years by the RIICC. The last concerned at least 771 children who died in three different facilities between 1966 and 1991.

Testimonies gathered by historians speak of an incident in 1983 in which many children “were abandoned on a field and died of cold” during a transfer to other orphanages.

In 1966, dictator Nicolae Ceausescu started a very strict pronatalist policy and banned abortions.

The decision rapidly increased child mortality and also the number of children born with deformities, according to researchers, with thousands of them being abandoned.

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Some of the children placed in state institutions were written off as “beyond help”, researchers say, with authorities reluctant to invest in their care. Conditions in the homes worsened notably in the 1980s with rationing of food, heating and electricity.

Romanian authorities have long been reluctant to look into this dark period of the country’s history.