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Belene Concentration Camp

The Belene Concentration Camp was established on the 27th April, 1949, on the basis of a secret decree of the Council of Ministers, led by the Prime Minister, Vasil Kolarov. The Communist government took the decision to create a Labour Education Hostel (LEH) and the Ministry of the Interior was given the responsibility for establishing the camp on the Danube islands of Persin, Golyama Barzina, Malka Barzina, Milko, Magaretsa, Sovata and Predela.

This was to lead to the creation of the biggest camp for the opponents of the BCP in regime during the communist period. It became known as the Belene camp and was built on Persin island, the biggest of the Danube islands. It became known as the Second Site in the Eastern part of Persin, where in July, 1949, the first group 300 prisoners were convoyed here from the Bogdanov Dol site.

The opponents of the communist dictatorship were forced to live in inhuman conditions – daily physical labour, intolerable demands and under constant armed guard. They were forced to live in bunkers and huts which they built themselves with whatever materials they could find. Hunger was the most terrible thing they were subject to.

Tens of thousands of prisoners passed through the camps. After Stalin’s death in 1953, political exile in the People’s Republic of Bulgaria was stopped. In 1956, however, after the Hungarian uprising it was reintroduced. Between 1953 and 1956, the First Site in Belene, in the South West past of the island, was used to isolate opponents of the regime from the whole of the country. Their sentences were handed down at show trials.

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