Hans Otto Roth was one of the most important politicians and journalists of the German minority of Romania, who took a public stance against the Nazi movement established by the Romanian Germans, and later also against the communist regime.
Born in Sighişoara on 29 April 1890 in a Transylvanian Saxon middle class family, Roth followed his father’s footsteps and studied law at the universities of Budapest, Vienna, Berlin, and Zürich between 1908 and 1912. He received a PhD in law from the University of Budapest in 1913. Between 1915 and 1917, he fought in the First World War as a soldier in the Austro-Hungarian army. During the last year of war, he was a journalist for Siebenbürgisch-Deutsches Tageblatt (The German Transylvanian Newspaper). After the war, Roth became involved in political life and was elected ten times deputy in the Romanian Parliament between 1919 and 1938. Between 1932 and 1949, he was also general curator of the Evangelical Church of Augustan Confession of Romania (Landeskirchenkurator). In this position, Roth fought against the takeover of denominational schools by the German Ethnic Group of Romania in 1940.
Between 1931 and 1934, Roth occupied the position of president of the Organisation of German Minorities in Europe (Verband der deutschen Volksgruppen in Europa). From this position he protested against the politics of the Reich towards the Jews during an audience with Hitler in June 1933, when he argued that it would affect the status of the German minorities in Eastern Europe (Kroner 2016). Because of his anti-Nazi attitude, Roth was removed from the political life of the community in 1940 by the leaders of the German Ethnic Group of Romania. After Romania left the Axis powers on 23 August 1944, Roth and the future bishop Friedrich Müller became the leaders of the German minority in Romania and forced Wilhelm Staedel – the pro-Nazi bishop of the Evangelical Church – to resign his position. Roth supported the de-Nazification the German minority of Romania. At the same time, he opposed the abuses committed by the Soviet and Romanian authorities, such as the deportation of a large part of the German adult population in Romania to forced labour camps in the USSR and the confiscation of their property. The numerous reports which Roth sent to political decision makers or institutions in charge of implementing these repressive measures bear witness to his anti-communist stance. Consequently, Roth was arrested in July 1948 and imprisoned for six months for his alleged mismanagement of the General Savings Bank of Sibiu (Hermannstädter Allgemeine Sparkasse). After a short release, Roth was arrested again in 1952, and died in an internment camp in April 1953.
Sr. Mira Rožanc was a secretary of Archbishop Alojzij Šuštar for 27 years.
- Ljubljana , Slovenia
Jiří Ruml was a Czechoslovak journalist, writer and politician. He was born in 1925 in Prague, and studied at a grammar school in Pilsen. After his studies, he worked as a journalist – at first in regional newspapers and after moving to Prague in 1948, he became an editor for Czechoslovak Radio, the newspaper Večerní Praha, Czechoslovak Television and the magazine Reportér. Jiří Ruml went through several phases regarding his relation to the communist regime. He tended towards radical Stalinism after the Second World War. Shortly afterwards, during the time of several political trials and de-Stalinization, he sympathised with the reform communists. The most significant turn in his views came in 1968, when Czechoslovakia was invaded by armies of the Warsaw Pact; Ruml condemned the invasion. He was expelled from the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in 1969 and worked as a blue-collar worker during the 1970. He signed Charter 77 and became its spokesperson in 1984. He was also a member of the Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Prosecuted (VONS). He was prosecuted twice and held in pre-trial detention (1981–1982, 1989). Jiří Ruml was a direct representative of the illegal cultural opposition, especially when he was editor-in-chief of publishing (at that time as a samizdat periodical) the renewed Lidové noviny in 1987. After the fall of the Communist regime, he was still active in Lidové noviny – now a legally published daily newspaper – and in politics – he became a deputy for the Chamber of the People of the Federal Assembly for the party Civic Forum. He was the author of several books, reports and articles.
- Plzeň, Czech Republic
- Praha, Prague, Czech Republic
Tamás Rupaszov is a cultic figure of the Hungarian underground scene. He founded the bands Trottel, Marina Revue, and PaprikaPaprika, as well as the record company Trottel Records, which has now been in operation for more than 25 years.
Rupaszov was 15 years old when he became part of the Hungarian punk community, as a founding member of the band Rottens. He soon became involved in a police affair, and his relationship with the communist regime did not improve over time. Although he studied to be a typographer, he never really had a normal civil occupation. As he confessed in an interview in 2010 “…I still have no idea what I make a living from, as I didn’t know twenty years ago.” Of course, this was not something that the regime would tolerate, as it aimed for full employment and punished unemployment, and this was only the tip of the iceberg in the regime’s degree of control over people’s lives. Under such circumstances, like many other people, Rupaszov also thought about emigration. While he did travel abroad with the intention of staying there for good, in the end, he returned to Hungary. However, his passport was stolen, and the authorities refused to give him a new one, Rupaszov could not travel anywhere, not even to the countries of the Soviet bloc. With these developments, emigration was no longer an option for him, at least for a while. Rupaszov spent most of the 1980s waiting to be given a passport so he would be able to travel again.
Rupaszov was not idle during this period, however. The short-lived band Rottens was replaced by the first incarnation of the band Trottel, terminated by the sudden emigration of their drummer. After that, Rupaszov founded the band Marina Revue, and, later, he also led the reformed Trottel. He quickly went from his first experiment, Rottens, which mostly imitated the Ramones, to the experimental and innovative Trottel, which soon gained fame both domestically and abroad. At the end of the 1980s, Rupaszov toured in several countries, while tirelessly building international punk connections and copying and distributing cassettes with recordings of music by Hungarian underground bands. He also founded and edited with László Távolodó Marton the fanzine of the legendary Fekete Lyuk, Lyukság (Holey Things). Fekete Lyuk was also the place where Rupaszov was persuaded to launch Trottel Records not as a non-profit organization, but as a company. However, Rupaszov had begun distributing audiotapes long before that, in 1986, in the context of chain letters. Thanks to these letters, Rupaszov could acquire a great deal of cassettes, fanzines, and posters from all over the world. In return, fans also started sending cassettes containing a selection of tracks from Hungarian underground bands. These were the first so-called “Pajtás daloljunk” (Let's sing, pals) cassettes, which they also started to distribute during concerts to cover the costs of production. This initiative was the first step towards Trottel Records. The company could only take a legal form in 1992, after the regime change. Like its founder, the record company is quite eclectic, and the spirit of Black Hole had a great deal of effect on it: it was intended as a site where people could do what they wanted to do and a place which provided space and opportunity for new, innovative, and enthusiastic bands.The moment of the regime change was a hectic period for Rupaszov. While he could travel again at this time, the reasons to emigrate were disappearing. The events of 1989–90 were sudden and full of promise. Rupaszov thought about the future of Hungary with great anticipation and interest. Thanks to the chain letters, Trottel could arrange several concerts abroad in a short time, and Rupaszov still tours abroad regularly. The band PaprikaPaprika, combining the energies of punk and folk music, came into existence only because of a possibility for a British tour. However, this improvised group became a more serious project over time. While the 1980s ended a long time ago and Rupaszov also started a family in the meantime, he continues to cultivate the values and ideals which Black Hole represented at the end of the 1980s. Rupaszov continues to work at Sziget during the summers (this is the only week in the year when he has a boss), and he puts out records, publishes books, organizes tours, makes music, and sometimes even translates.
Romulus Rusan (b. 13 March 1935, Alba Iulia – d. 8 December 2016, Bucharest) was a Romanian writer, who was most noted, and has remained in the collective memory, for his postcommunist activity of recovering the communist past. He was a founder of the non-governmental organisation Civic Academy and director of the International Centre for Studies into Communism within the Sighet Memorial to the Victims of Communism and to the Resistance, which he initiated together with Ana Blandiana. A graduate of polytechnic studies, Romulus Rusan made his debut as a writer in 1954, with articles of literary criticism in the Cluj magazine Steaua (The star). He was the editor of several regional publications, and for almost two decades he had a cinema column in the magazine România literară. He was twice (1964 and 1982) awarded prizes for prose by the Romanian Writers’ Union. He was the author of more than ten volumes of short prose, travel writing, and film criticism.
A key figure in the Memorial to the Victims of Communism and to the Resistance, Romulus Rusan co-organised, together with Ana Blandiana, the series of Sighet Summer Schools (1998–2014) and of Doors Open Days, when the victims of communism are commemorated. Above all, the activity of Romulus Rusan is linked to the International Centre for Studies into Communism, whose academic director he was until his death in 2016. In this capacity, he wrote, edited, and coordinated numerous essential books of recent history, all published at the Civic Academy Foundation publishing house. Among these may be mentioned: Cronologia și geografia represiunii comuniste: Recensământul populației concentraționare (The chronology and geography of communist repression: The census of the prison camp population)(2007); România în timpul războiului rece (Romania during the Cold War)(2008); Sfârșiți odată cu trecutul negru (Finish once and for all with the dark past)(2010); Morți fără morminte în Bărăgan (Death without graves in the Bărăgan)(2011); and Cartea morților (The book of the dead)(2013). His most important contribution is probably the estimate of the total number of victims of Romanian communism at around two million. The “Census of the Prison Camp Population: 1945–1989” project, which he coordinated, was based on the statistical study of 86,000 penal registration files of political prisoners. The database, which has been added to and used throughout the history of the Memorial, also now includes around 10,000 certificates of death in prisons and labour camps and around 17,000 decrees of pardon. Romulus Rusan was also a member of the Presidential Commission for the Analysis of the Communist Dictatorship in Romania (2006). He wrote two chapters of the Commission’s Report, “The Chronology and Geography of Communist Repression” and “The Census of the Prison Camp Population: 1945–1989,” which also appeared separately in 2007 in the volume of the same title mentioned above as part of the Civic Academy Foundation Publishing House collection “Ora de istorie” (History class).
Romulus Rusan played a decisive role in conceiving and coordinating the publishing programme of the Civic Academy Foundation. He produced seven distinct collections, to which may be added books published outside the collections, amounting to over 120 titles totalling over 45,000 pages. The ten international symposia at the Sighet Memorial generated the “Analele Sighet” (Sighet Annals) series (ten volumes totalling over 7,300 pages), which constituted a source of great importance for the compilation and organisation of the Sighet Museum collection (http://www.memorialsighet.ro/prod-cat/ro/libraria/analele-sighet/). A second important and long-lasting collection was born a few years later under the title of “Biblioteca Sighet” (Sighet library). This series, numbering over twenty titles, includes both thematic anthologies and books by one or two authors. “It was born,” Romulus Rusan related, “out of the suggestions and collaborations of our guests both well-known and, more often, unknown, who sought us out, gave us ideas, manuscripts, biographies.” Indeed the collection includes books by scholars of international prestige such as Dennis Deletant and Thierry Wolton (http://www.memorialsighet.ro/prod-cat/ro/libraria/biblioteca-sighet/). A third series produced by the publishing department of the International Centre for Studies into Communism is entitled “Documente” (Documents), and comprises over ten volumes whose role is to supplement the studies, political reports, memoirs, and monographs printed in the “Sighet Library” collection. According to Romulus Rusan, the books in the “Documents” series are focused on documents “that managed to escape the unacknowledged but real censoring of the archives” (http://www.memorialsighet.ro/prod-cat/ro/libraria/documente/). “Ora de Istorie” (History class) is another collection initiated by the International Centre for Studies into Communism under the direction of Romulus Rusan. It is targeted in the first place at young people. On the one hand, Romulus Rusan remarked, the initiation of such a collection was based on the observation that “historical knowledge has declined year by year, as the curriculum has decayed, imposing useless and sterile textbooks.” On the other hand, he said, “Through chronologies and succinct, but information-packed texts, these books offer the pupils of today a basic knowledge of recent history (which is sometimes welcome to their parents too)” (http://www.memorialsighet.ro/prod-cat/ro/libraria/ora-de-istorie/). In addition to this collection with its numerous titles, there are others, also produced under the direction of Romulus Rusan, but on a smaller scale: “Interval,” “Viaţa cotidiană” (Everyday life), “Comemorări” (Commemorations), and “Multimedia.” The International Centre for Studies into Communism also has a small library made up of books “outside the collections,” including books by Dennis Deletant, Corneliu Coposu, and Vladimir Bukovsky. “The masterpiece of this section is the monumental 880-page tome Cartea Morţilor (The book of the dead), the first list of tens of thousands of human sacrifices in the postwar period, supported by a detailed introductory study,” remarks Romulus Rusan.
Having started out as a department of oral history, the International Centre for Studies into Communism has also made its contribution to this direction of research in a collection of distinct books entitled “Istorie orală” (Oral history). It is, remarks Romulus Rusan, “the most productive collection, which succeeds in bringing together in an epic and thematic way the fruit of thousands of hours of recordings from the first years, together with conferences and debates, charming in their innocence, between teachers and pupils, at the Summer Schools that started in 1998. Inasmuch as the written and audio documentary base in the possession of the Civic Academy Foundation is immense, it is to be expected that we will have many titles in this collection from now onwards” (http://www.memorialsighet.ro/prod-cat/ro/libraria/istorie-orala/). In fact the remarkable archive of oral history created by the International Centre for Studies into Communism numbers to date approximately 3,600 entries/ recordings, totalling over 6,400 hours. Romulus Rusan was the editor of the first compendium of oral history of the period 1944–1989, with over 600 authors. In addition, the International Centre for Studies into Communism, which he coordinated, has accumulated an archive of over 10,000 photographs, both black and white and colour, in classic format and, partially, in digital format. The Centre’s archive of documents numbers 1,540 files (with over 20,000 pages in total), together with 11,700 pages with extracts from the register of births, marriages, and deaths (for those who have died). It also holds approximately 93,000 penal registration files.
In short, Romulus Rusan was one of the Romanian personalities who campaigned most consistently for the maintenance of a living memory of communism and, above all, of its numerous victims. “Such a sense of sacrifice might be considered utopian, if history were to end in our days that are muddied and disfigured by optimism. Fortunately, history never stops in the marshes, but aims for the heights. And all that may seem useless – sacrifice, honour, upright character – remains in the heritage of hope,” said Romulus Rusan, stating a profession of faith. Comparing the roles they each played, Ana Blandiana recalls her late husband as follows: “I was a sort of spokesperson, the image of the institution; I had to obtain money, to make the image of the Memorial grow perhaps even faster than the Memorial itself, so as to become a point of support. And in this connection, I really want to say that I was extraordinarily impressed to discover something very special, after the death of my husband. I always felt a sort of remorse because it seemed to me that, because of me, my husband was not sufficiently seen. And to a certain extent, that was indeed true. And it was only when he died that I discovered that he was seen, that what he did was visible in the public space. The way almost everyone wrote after he died was proof that they had realised that he had been the one who had created everything at Sighet. About me, yes, they spoke, because I spoke. But the content was created by him, fundamentally. In ever room there was the fruit of research that hadn’t existed before. And he had a decisive role in connection with all that.”
- Bucharest, Romania