Draft resolution

Resolution 1096


Communist Terror
National Agencies
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History > Testimonies


Kolio Kolev from the Slunchev Briag concentration camp:

"I Blame Mircho Spasov [deputy minister of the interior] and the Party Most"

Kolio Kolev spent more than a year at the Slunchev Briag [Sunny Beach] death camp outside Lovech. He is one of the few survivors sent to the quarry with the sole purpose of being "liquidated". On many of their dossiers there was a "ZN" - "Return Not Desirable" stamp. We are offering the second part of Kolio Kolev's confessions - an authentic testimony of one of the most horrendous crimes in our history. And a document about the terrorist nature of a political system that prided itself that "a man is a friend and brother to a man". The ferocity and Sadism of the Lovech butchers would probably win the admiration of their masters of Stalin's NKVD.

The women lived in the other wing of the camp. They did the same work as we did. They were beaten all the time too. They tortured them, stuck them things. At night, some were taken to the barrels; Ruzhgeva or Kuna would pour water for them to wash below the waist and then herded them into the offices. Raped them all the time and they would not dare protest. Otherwise death was awaiting them. It was very fearsome. Our hands were bleeding wounds. We loaded rocks with our bare hands. The nights, we slept like dead. Many moaned with pain. Time and again, somebody yelled there was a snake passing - there are many of them in the rocks, and the planks of the bedroom floor had with finger-wide gaps. We urinated and defecated in a bucket but the sickest of all was the smell of pus and sweat. The mornings stanched of carrion.

The summer was hot as hell. The rocks got so heated by noon that an egg would be baked in five minutes. In the fall, the rocks cooled and the morning were very cold but just until we reached the quarry. We toiled from 6 am till dark. We did not feel cold as we were sweating even in the harshest winter colds.

Sweat and blood spilled all the time. Mircho Spasov wanted "an awful lot of work". We had no spare time. They brought in a boy from the village of Glozhene, an orphan. Before I knew he was a neighbor of mine, he was killed. My closest friend was Bozhidar from Sofia who arrived four days before me and stayed on till the closing of the camp. There were many attempts to escape but all failed. The fugitives were either killed on the spot or in front of us for our edification. If the Gypsy man, who counted us, erred in the counting, the first row would be laid down and beaten to tell where the runaways were. He erred on purpose. Sometimes, a working group of 20-30 was allocated to the Bulgarian communist party villa on the hill. We carried stones, iron, water, cement - a palace built by slave labor. Blago or some of the Gypsies would put a stick on the path and we had to jump over it with the stone. Whoever touched the stick, was beaten up right away. If he could stand up, he could go, if not - they finished him off.

Killings were done in all possible ways: With sticks, machine tools, knives, strangulation. The day Bai Ivan Karadochev was killed I survived by a miracle. I had been working in a group with him for two or three months. Shakho hit him badly with the stick and he fell down. I called him, took him on my lap. Bai Ivan died in my arms. I heard a shout and then, in the last instant, I saw Shakho lash his killing device at me. It was a stick tied up to his hand, on which a thin steel band, about 8 inches, sharp as hell, was attached by a chain. He would often show on his forearm how it could raze hair. He grabbed it and killed with a single motion. If he reached a neck, his man was dead on the spot, if a back - a wound would be torn open to the bone. People would die from the loss of blood, or the wounds would got infected and filled with worms. That day, as tears were running down my eyes, I heard Bozhidar scream loudly, "Brothe-er!" - I looked up - the band was slashing towards my head. I pulled back instinctively and as I had crouched down, the knife cut two deep wounds on my arm and leg - I still have the scars.

Shakho would finish me off but at that moment Gazdov called him down to the sheds for "something important" . This meant new people had come and there was work for him. They were two girls and a guy from Burgas. Accused of waiting in short skirts on the pier American sailors to arrive by boats. The three were tortured all night. All night terrible screams were heard, although they shut up their mouths. How many times they were raped, nobody knows. In the morning the boy was dead, and the girls, torn clothes, disheveled hair, bleeding were taken out of the commanders' office.

Sore wounds swarming with worms Were treated by Bai Georgi, the paramedic, in two ways. Either asked someone to urinate on the wound, or picked and plucked the worms out with peeled twigs. Every sick man was doomed. Once a man jumped from the silos. He wanted to escape on the departing train but fell on the rails and the car trampled on his legs. He was taken to the hospital, in two hours was brought back with amputated legs. He was thrown in the "morgue" at the back of the toilet and died in terrible pain. He was alive among corpses, asking for water, moaning. I remember Dancho from around Plovdiv. He had two 25 leva bills left - there were such bills at that time - and wanted to treat us on January 19, Epiphany, for his birthday and name day, he was turning 24. He asked a sergeant to buy some peppermint drops but the militiaman betrayed him. Gazdov called him in front of the line. He was tied up to a pole with his arms lifted. He was in a high-school sweatshirt; it pulled up and uncovered his body. It was very cold, -15° C (5° F). Gazdov ordered that he was splashed with water every other hour. On each splash, they told him, "Do you know that they splash for health on birthdays and name days?" He was left on the pole for two days and they never stopped splashing. The third day Gazdov arrived to the quarry, mounted on horseback and pulling Dancho on a rope tied to the saddle. He was still alive, covered with ice. He gathered us to see him. "Any others willing to celebrate?" Dancho just moaned, "Brothers. I'm. gone." And died. They brought in a boy from Gabrovo; his parents were some big shots, They sent him just for intimidation He had confidence but as soon as the third day he was killed. In a couple of days they looked for him. First they were told that he was not there, then - that he escaped. Then asked a bunch of people to gather some earth and put a cross made of two twigs. But the mother felt with her instinct that they lied. She dug up the earth and saw that there was no grave. We didn't know then that the corpses that were transported to Belene were buried in shallow grooves and then ripped up by the carrion-hungry hogs.

There were no traitors among us, I am sure. We did not talk with each other - had no right to. There was an order to talk loudly. When talking to someone, it should be heard at least from 25-30 meters (80-100 ft). If someone asked for something - a hammer, a tool - and the guards considered they did not hear, it meant that in seconds the speaker and those to whom he spoke were dead. It was a law. We learned only each other's first names and where we were from - Stefan from Vratsa, Sasho Sladura (Sasho the Candy Boy). I remember him; I did not see how he was killed. They said he was a great musician. There were only Highly educated and cultured people - the threat for "peaceful communism". There were lawyers, members of parliament, etc. Nikola from Sofia was sent to the camp because he spoke with foreigners at the Bulgaria hotel. There were people at the age of 40, 50, 58. They did not survive.

I remember two boys - I don't know if they were Macedonian, we called them Serbs. Micho escaped but was captured. He was killed very painfully. June 19 is a date printed in my memory. They had laid out explosives and made twenty-some people light the fuses. The fuses were too short. In an instant the whole group blew up. Bodies, heads, legs and rocks were scattered everywhere. Two or three minutes later, an order was given to "collect all the carrion in the pickup". They made us clean up. Slaughterhouse. You catch a hand, it is still trembling, you take a leg, it is still warm. Over there - intestines. I still feel sickened when I remember June 19, 1959. Some started to run but the militiamen fired from the cliffs. Several people were shot dead. On the average, there were 240-250 people in the camp at any time. Many newcomers did not survive the first beating, passed out or were killed on the spot. Half dead, they were thrown in the "morgue". And when they died - with the other corpses to Belene with the pickup. The ration for 24 hours was 260 grams (8 ounces) of stale black bread. Black as a cinder brick. They gave us some surrogate tea in the morning and in the evening. The body needs liquids. Sometimes they gave us fish-heads soup, but the heads had started decomposing, stunk. I have seen people pick grass and leaves and say, "just to water my mouth". But they swallowed. We drank water from barrels that were never washed, only filled up. On the bottom there was slime, dirt. There was no water at the quarry. We went to a wooden toilet but nobody dared stay there too long. Some were shot or had their throats cut as they were squatting.

The trolleys were to be pushed on rails for 150-200 meters (500-600 ft). You watch not to finish up first, nor last. Because a group that finished up first was disbanded. They added a sick or disabled person to it. I will say it openly - he was not useful. He was a burden for the rest who hit the target, and if they missed it - death followed. While I was there maybe 1,000 people were killed. I have not counted them, but not less than 800. And that was only one year.

Once, Mircho Spasov was making a speech And Vasko from Strumiani spoke up: "Comrade lieutenant colonel (he was lieutenant colonel then), why are we here with no trials and sentences, why are we not allowed to write and receive letters?" Mircho Spasov said, "You are gathered here not to serve sentences, not to survive, but for physical and sterile extermination, because you are the seed of rotten American capitalism." And if someone thought that he could become a bird and fly over the barbed wire, he would immediately turn into a kite and would not let a feather out. Then they earmarked the boy. In a week, Vasko was gone. For me, Mircho Spasov and the party were to blame most. He said, it was an order form the party and he had to feed his kids. But they were degenerates, power-thirsty, eager to cut throats and to hang.

Today, I feel the burden that several people died instead of me. Before entering, I went in for wrestling. When Lovech was made a district town, there was no athlete in the category and they called me for a competition. Now, the guards heard that they were getting some wrestler, and killed several big and strong men. They did not know who he was, I weighted 40 kilos (90 pounds). One morning I saw they were coming for me and started trembling. I told Bozhidar that it was finished, they were to kill me that day. He whispered me not to fear. The Gazdov called me. I went, he lashed with the stick. As I fell, he stepped on my head and my ear tore up on the rocks. The I heard a cry, "Enough!" He let the stick fall and said, "If you come back, you won't meet the morning, if you do, won't meet the evening". I went out, fell on the road, took two handfuls of earth and kissed it. I keep it now. Later, I watched the movie "Spartacus", that starts with slave labor in a quarry, at least 20 times. It does not match the horror of our quarry even a bit but I still always cried. When I went to the first celebration on April 12, 1990, I just made a few steps and passed out. So did all survivors. There, I saw Bozhidar and Nadia Dunkin, she was like a sister for me. Just wept on each other's shoulders. Today, when they ask me to say or write something, it is just this: "Violence nevermore, nevermore!"

Roumen Hitov
Democracy, 28.08.2001

Translation from Bulgarian by Dr. Neli Hadjiyska and Dr. Valentin Hadjiyski

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