Leonard Kirschen
Arthur Barker Limited, London, 1963

By Leonard Kirschen

Leonard Kirschen, Associated Press representative in Bucharest, spent ten years (1950-1960) in Roumanian Communist prisons. The new régime considered free, objective reportage a criminal anti-state activity. He was arrested, interrogated, tortured, tried nine months later and sentenced to twenty-five years.

The simplicity of his account only emphasizes the nightmare of brutality, terror and inhumanity which thousands are still enduring. The regime's aim of "re-education" means in practice, degradation to an animal level, through absolute tyranny, starvation and work schedules intended to kill. In spite of which, these diseased, exhausted skeletons create articles and games out of nothing with infinite patience. Crammed in foul underground dungeons, tormented by political informers and bullies, they manage to organize lessons, lectures and stories, determined that their humanity shall not be annihilated. In the dreaded centres of Jilava, Aiud, Pitesti, people of every class and creed—generals and intellectuals, workers and peasants—struggle to survive. Among the outstanding, tragic destinies recounted are those of George Tomaziu, Roumania's leading painter serving twenty-five years, and Professor Topa, her leading surgeon dying of cancer in his underground tomb.

To those who, at a comfortable distance, feel complacent about life under Communism in the "satellite" countries, this book will provide a salutary shock. Others will draw inspiration and encouragement from the fortitude and resources shown by many for whom life holds no hope of anything but slavery—and degradation.

See excerpt: "The Crows are a Godsend"


LEONARD KIRSCHEN was Born in 1908 in Roumania. He was eleven when he first came to England where his father sent him to school. After going to a preparatory school in Eastbourne, he went to Clifton College. Admitted to Peterhouse, Cambridge, his father thought it was better for him to broaden his outlook and sent him to Berlin and Bucharest to study law and economics.

Before the last war he represented British national newspapers in Roumania and in 1941, when the Germans had infiltrated into Roumania, he made his way to Turkey. There he worked for the Daily Telegraph and Morning Post, the Sunday Times and the Government of India Press Office. After the war he returned to Roumania to do, as he puts it, "a post mortem on the country". He was appointed Associated Press correspondent in Bucharest in 1945. Both his return and his job got him into trouble with the Roumanian Government. After his ten years' experience, which he describes in this book, he came back to London where he now works on the staff of the London Bureau of the Associated Press. He is a naturalized subject, unmarried and speaks six languages, four of them—English, German, French and Roumanian—fluently.