Trains to the Camps

Graphic accounts of survivors of the Communist Forced Labour Camp in the Bulgarian city of Lovech.

An episode of the 1991 documentary The Camps. Courtesy, the director of the film Atanas Kiryakov.

In 1959 after the fall of Bulgaria's Stalin, Vulko Chervenkov, and after a prisoners' hunger strike, the notorious camp Belene, on the Persin island in the Danube, was closed. This camp was re-opened in the 1980s for Bulgarian Turks, persecuted by the Communist regime. In 1959 those not freed were transferred to a new camp at Lovech, north-central Bulgaria.

The last and harshest of Bulgaria's Communist labour camps was set up near an abandoned rock quarry outside the city.

Several thousand people eventually joined the original group of about 160. In September 1961, around a hundred female prisoners were sent to a neighbouring camp in Skravena. In spring 1962, the Communist Politburo created a commission to inspect Lovech, which was closed in April as a result of the commission's visit.

At Lovech and Skravena, 149 people are believed to have died from abuse between 1959-1961.

In 1990, the Bulgarian Communist Party (later renamed Socialists) set up an inquiry commission into the camps. It found that between 1944 and 1962 there were approximately 100 forced labour camps in a country of 8 million inhabitants.

Between 1944 and 1953, some 12,000 men and women passed through these camps, with an additional 5,000 between 1956 and 1962. According to one witness, Belene alone held 7,000 in 1952.

Another source estimates a total of 187,000 prisoners during this period, "The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression", Paris 1997.

No one has been jailed so far for their responsibility for Bulgaria's Communist camps.