We worked until late in the night because many people could not meet their quotas Hygiene was abysmal The only place where the so called incorrigibles could bathe was the nearby Osam River Their old army uniforms were lice infested and their shacks full of bedbugs and fleas For over a year medical care was nonexistent Neno Hristov from the village of Izvorovo recalled I had never seen people with festering wounds containing worms We had to ask somebody to urinate on the wounds so they could heal Following the collapse of Communism in 1989 the Military Prosecutor's Office began an investigation Medical experts concluded that inmates were denied contact with the outside world and could not make demands or lodge complaints to preserve their self respect and human dignity Living conditions were marked by inexcusable sadism The man who oversaw this barbaric regime was General Mircho Spasov Deputy Interior Minister and a close associate of Todor Zhivkov Petar Gogov the camp s chief officer said Everything was done according to Spasov s orders He banned all visits refused the sick access to hospital and ordered that the dead be kept from relatives Tsvyatko Goranov head of the quarry recalled Spasov saying Mircho Spasov gave orders to toil from sunrise to sunset They must labour under the hardest conditions from dawn till dusk Work until they drop dead When interrogated in 1990 Mircho Spasov said
Everybody including Todor Zhivkov knew that the camp s regime was very strict even severe Instructions to maintain such conditions came from the Interior Ministry and the Politburo If Spasov was the one who laid down general rules for Lovech specific acts of violence had another face Nikolay Gazdov the camp s State Security officer was an unrivalled torturer His favourite trick before killing a man was to call him to the front of the ranks and give him a mirror to look at himself for the final time During the Lovech camp s four year history 1 500 people passed through its gates of whom 151 died Robbed of a dignified death they were also deprived of a proper funeral Those killed in the quarry were covered with straw canvas and returned to the camp then dumped by the latrine overnight In the morning they were transported by lorry to Belene from where they were taken by boat to be buried on one of the islands Less dignifying than the extermination camps Despite the barbaric treatment Nikola Nikolov the head of the Belene prison cared only about its image In a 1961 report he wrote This is a Catholic village Many of the local prison warders do not keep secrets so the almost public disposal of the corpses may be used by enemies to damage the prestige of the People's Rule However Mircho Spasov ordered maintaining some level of secrecy regarding the transportation and disposal although there was nothing illegal All relatives of the dead received were their blood stained clothes Ivan Karadochev a fur merchant and father of the popular Bulgarian singer Bogdana Karadocheva was among those killed in the camp near Lovech The authorities sent him there after receiving a report containing unsubstantiated allegations of illegal trading Karadochev died after just two weeks from diabetes according to his death certificate However Krastyo Nikolov a surviving inmate tells a different story Karadochev was sitting on a broken trolley Group leader Dimitar Tsvetkov kicked him hard in the middle of his chest several times and then finished him off by striking him repeatedly on the head with his stick Fabricated explanations were given for many of the deaths The death certificate of Alexander Nikolov although labeled Sasho Sladura for example attributes his demise to angina
The former member of the Bulgarian Royal Symphony Orchestra who had to earn his living after 1944 playing in restaurants was interned in Lovech for telling political jokes He died eleven days later Prisoners said that he expired following a severe thrashing from Gazdov and other warders The camp near Lovech might have operated far longer were it not for the escape of two prisoners in the winter of 1961 1962 Their shocking reports about life in the TVO provoked a surprising reaction from the repressive system Charged with the investigation General Dimitar Kapitanov and his deputy Gatyu Gatev were so appalled that they decided to act behind Mircho Spasov s back and send the evidence directly to the Central Committee of the BCP Spasov then responsible for investigations on behalf of State Security was furious and threatened Kapitanov and Gatev Yet the inquiry held by the Central Committee came to some awkward findings These findings happened to include the fact that Todor Zhivkov had ordered and Mircho Spasov had organised the murders In spite of this the only person to be fired was Interior Minister Georgi Tsankov Spasov remained in office The Lovech camp was closed down in April 1962 in complete secrecy as it had been established and its inmates released The 30 women prisoners who were moved from Lovech to a cow shed by the village of Skravena near Botevgrad in the autumn of 1961 were released some time earlier Here is how an Interior Ministry report described the occasion
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