In a Black Book of Communist Killers, if such a title were ever published, former Securitate Colonel Gheorghe Enoiu would rank high. Extremely high. He had all the necessary ‘qualities’ to make a fine repressive tool in the hands of the notorious Romanian communist secret political police: a boorish and cruel character unfettered by any shred of conscience, morality or humanity; a precarious understanding of human nature, right and wrong, moral and immoral; a simplistic view of reality that divided the world between the ‘good’ party hacks and the ‘bad’ dissidents; and, above all, a demonic urge to hit, destroy and obliterate every living soul who came in his proximity. His name spelled terror, and his nickname – the Butcher of the Interior Ministry (Macelarul de la Interne) – was much feared by all political prisoners. While authorities could have indicted him as early as 1990, Enoiu has spent his days in quiet retirement, enjoying the hefty pension the Romanian state has provided him with in exchange for his repressive services. Some hope that his days of impunity will soon be over.

Born in 1927, Enoiu joined the Securitate in August 1949, a year after the secret police was set up through Decree 221/1948 as a smaller version of the Soviet NKVD, precursor to the KGB. At a time when the secret police was massively recruiting new agents in view of enacting the sweeping reforms that transformed the country into a political dictatorship and a command economy, Enoiu’s ‘healthy origins’ and penchant for cruelty recommended him as a prime candidate. He quickly rose through the Securitate ranks to become head of the Criminal Investigation Department of its Direction VIII in 1950, a position he occupied until 1960. In that capacity, Enoiu participated in some of the most notorious human rights abuses perpetrated by the communist regime. Among them, the trials of former communist leader Lucretiu Patrascanu, condemned to death for ‘bourgeois nationalism’; Ana Pauker, Teohari Georgescu, and Vasile Luca, expelled from the party on charges of ‘deviationism’; the student leaders of the ‘Pitesti re-education experiment,’ known for its unimaginable cruelty, condemned to death; the leaders of the student demonstrations of 1956; and the six accused in the 1959 trial connected with the robbery of a Central Bank transport, forced to ‘confess’ their guilt through torture. In each case, Enoiu conducted brutal interrogations, indiscriminantly beating up prisoners. While maneuvering his rubber stick, the shirtless Enoiu used a sheet to protect himself against the blood gushing out of his defenseless victims.

He continued to appear in Securitate records in various capacities until December 1968, when he was expelled from the Communist Party and demoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, at a time when Nicolae Ceausescu sought increased legitimacy by blackening the reputation of his predecessors. Talking about the interrogation methods Enoiu used in 1952-1953, an internal Securitate inquiry report stated that he “had gravely infringed socialist legality, employing brutal methods of physical and moral coercion.” In reply, Enoiu argued that “the activity for which I prepared myself on a daily basis represents my life’s ideal for which I sacrificed everything, my spare time, health, family, life. I am proud to look back [on my work]. I was inspired by the desire to work better, to hit the real enemies [of the regime] with all my determination.” Within months of his demotion, Enoiu was reinstated, remaining a Securitate agent until 1989. After the collapse of the communist regime and the replacement of the Securitate’s domestic repression branch by the allegedly democratic Romanian Information Service, he briefly worked as a legal counsel for a private firm in northern Transylvania before transferring to the Otopeni Airport, Bucharest’s gateway. He retired in 1997.

As other post-communist countries, Romania was unable to bring to justice the vast majority of communist human rights violators. Due to lack of political will, an ill-conceived amnesty law, public apathy and disinterest in communist crimes, procrastinated investigations set aside after the death of the perpetrators, as well as largely complicit court and police systems, only four post-1989 court cases have deal with communist crimes perpetrated during the 1945-1989 period. None of them indicted Enoiu, although his crimes have been well documented by researchers, minutely described by former political prisoners, and bitterly denounced in the final report of the Presidential Commission for the Investigation of Communist Crimes in Romania. Nothing seemed to cloud Enoiu’s pampered retirement, spent in happy ruminations over his absolute allegiance to the good of the country and its people. In 2007, however, the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes filed a complaint against Enoiu with the Romanian courts (file 82/P/2007, titled ‘The Trial of Communism,’ refers to several other communist-era perpetrators). The case has stalled ever since.

These days, the Institute (by now benefiting from a new leadership and renamed the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile) has forwarded to prosecutors Enoiu’s Securitate file, which offers additional evidence of his human rights abuses. The cadre file, which details Enoiu’s activities as a Securitate agent, contains over 320 pages of information, including a 50-page-long self-appraisal Enoiu wrote in 1967 in response to the Securitate report denouncing his brutal practices. While admitting that some of his victims were innocent persons whom he unjustly terrorized, Enoiu insisted that “at every moment, with all my actions, I believed that I served my country and the party. During most of my 18 years [of activity for the Securitate until 1967] I was happy to work on [cases related to] the [inter-war fascist] Iron Guard, groups [not sanctioned by the Communist Party], religious denominations, counter-espionage, and my actions give me the joy of a fulfilled duty.” Happy thoughts, indeed!

The Institute’s efforts to de-block the case are commendable, but ultimately the Romanian courts will have to get their act together and do what they have systematically avoided during the last two decades – the prosecution of communist crimes and their condemnation for what they really were: infringements of both the Romanian communist law and the international conventions the country had signed by the time these crimes were committed. While over the last two decades most of the old prosecutors and judges have been replaced by younger recruits, the Romanian judiciary seems as corrupt, inefficient, self-interested, devoid of morality, and politically subservient as twenty years ago. In a country where the judiciary has impeded, more than supported, Vergangenheitsbewältigung initiatives of coming to terms with the communist past, it is very unlikely that the Enoiu trial will move ahead during the perpetrator’s life. It is time for the prosecutors to prove all of us wrong in this case.