Notorious communist surveillance ‘House of Leaves’ opens up as remembrance museum

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 24, 2017 12:28

Notorious communist surveillance ‘House of Leaves’ opens up as remembrance museum

Story Highlights

  • Late Albanian translator and author Amik Kasoruho who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the early 1950s over agitation and propaganda activity against the communist government, said the "museum is dedicated to the innocent who were intercepted, spied on by the communist regime, and as a result arrested, interned, imprisoned executed and suffered lots of other severe punishment.”

Related Articles

gjethi 2TIRANA, May 24 – A downtown Tirana facility that housed for a short time the notorious Gestapo Nazi secret police during the country’s occupation under WWII and was the interception headquarters of the Sigurimi secret service under communist for more than four decades until the early 1990s, has been transformed into a museum of secret surveillance, showcasing one of the country’s darkest periods to the younger generations and foreign tourists.

“The ‘House of Leaves,’ initially built as a small maternity hospital in the early 1930s, is a building that was set up as an obstetrics clinic to bring to life, but was in fact used to take people’s lives,” said Culture Minister Mirela Kumbaro at the museum’s opening ceremony this week.

Late Albanian translator and author Amik Kasoruho who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the early 1950s over agitation and propaganda activity against the communist government, said the “museum is dedicated to the innocent who were intercepted, spied on by the communist regime, and as a result arrested, interned, imprisoned executed and suffered lots of other severe punishment.”

“Maybe at that time I didn’t understand why, but I later thought these people who have not asked forgiveness yet, must have had shameless courage,” reads a saying by Kasoruhu, who died in 2014 at the age 82, at the museum entrance.

A report by the Institute for the Study of Communist Crimes has unveiled the 45-year communist regime that collapsed in the early 1990s imprisoned or interned for politically motivated reasons more than 90,000 people, of whom about 7,000 were killed or died of tortures.

The museum features the totalitarian control and its presence everywhere through interceptions in the form of pars pro toto, a part or aspect of something taken as representative of the whole, through authentic and replica interception items and materials.

The remembrance museum, which until 2015 was still under the administration of the intelligence service, is divided into nine sections displaying the building’s functions from the early 1930s until 1991 when the communist regime collapsed.

The writing of part of the history, the scientific sources and the equipment displayed in narrative style are the product of scientific research based on materials of the state archive, the ministry of interior, the Sigurimi secret service archive and the National Library, says the Culture Ministry.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony Prime Minister Edi Rama described the newly opened museum as a treasure of collective memory, similar to Bunk’art, a Cold War secret bunker outside Tirana that the former communist regime had built underground decades ago to survive a possible nuclear attack. The bunker opened up as a tourist attraction in 2015.

“This is house hiding a very important treasure of our collective memory, a treasure giving us the opportunity to uncover other items of this mosaic that still has to be fully uncovered,” said Prime Minister Rama.

“What I learned from the experience of Bunk’art 1 and 2, is the physical relation with remembrance as an opportunity to tell the younger generation or foreign visitors who didn’t experience this period of history, and that a story when confessed, the more time passes, the less we who witnessed that time, fully believe in it,” said the Prime Minister.

“It is very important that neither Albanians nor Europe forgets the drama we went through. Remembrance is an unavoidable step to build the future,” added the Prime Minister, citing Pope John Paul II who visited Albania in 1993 soon after the collapse of the country’s communist regime that banned religion for more than two decades.

A couple of years ago, a former building of the Sigurimi secret police which also served as a prison for the former politically persecuted was also turned into a museum in the northern Albanian city of Shkodra.

For about 45-years, Albania experienced Europe’s harshest communist regime under late Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha.

Albania approved a law on opening communist era secret police files in May 2015, after more than two decades of transition to democracy and market economy, enabling the former persecuted people and their relatives to get to know the names of the people who spied on them.

In addition to its coastal and mountain natural heritage, the country is also using its communist past to promote tourism as ‘Europe’s last secret.’

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 24, 2017 12:28