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A special Romanian committee looking into crimes perpetrated by the former communist regime discovered this week that thousands of children died in the country’s infamous networks of orphanages and other residential facilities, with many of the deaths attributed to neglect, Radio Free Europe reported.
The Institute for the Investigation of Crimes of Communism and the Memory of the Romanian Exile (IICCMER) was formed in 2009 to investigate crimes during the reign of dictator, Nicolae Ceauşescu, who ruled the eastern European country between 1965 and 1989 – when he was executed with his wife Elena following a popular revolt.
Recent findings by the IICCMER showed that more than 15,000 minors – including those orphaned, mentally or physically disabled children, or those abandoned by their parents – died at 26 facilities across the country between 1967 and 1990, when the institutions were shut down.
The causes of death were usually starvation, lack of medical care and abuse.
A new analysis from RFE’s Romanian Service on the committee’s probe showed that many of these children were sent to these institutions to help finance the facilities, with authorities asking parents to pay for their children’s “treatment.”
But historian Cosmin Popa told the outlet that officials rarely took into consideration the child’s welfare or health when they decided who was sent to one of these facilities.
More than 300,000 children were placed in Romania’s network of orphanages and other institutions between 1954 and 1989. Many of them later came to be known as “Ceauşescu’s children.”
During his rule, Ceauşescu implemented policies to boost birth rates, such as banning abortion for women under 40 with fewer than four children. While this resulted in a baby boom, many of the children were born to impoverished parents and eventually ended up in state-run institutions.
The fall of communism revealed the appalling conditions in these facilities, with broadcasted images of emaciated children living in squalor gaining global attention.
Despite the IICMER’s efforts to uncover these atrocities, no one has ever been held accountable for the deaths in these institutions.