Romania opens museum on dictator’s final moments

TARGOVISTE, Romania (AP) — More than 20 years after Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were convicted of genocide and executed in Romania, the country opened a museum about the last two days of their lives during the country’s pro-democracy uprising.

The museum is located in a military building where the trial and executions took place in Targoviste, a town 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Bucharest.

Ceausescu had ruled Romania for nearly 25 years with an iron fist. Museum visitors will be able to see metal plates that he and his wife ate on, the beds where they slept, and a tiny improvised courtroom where they faced a hastily conducted trial before a special military tribunal. The place where they were fatally shot on Christmas Day, 1989, at 2:45 p.m. also is showcased.

On Tuesday, Gen. Andrei Kemenci, the former commander of the garrison located in the building, took journalists on a tour of the museum. He said Ceausescu was dissatisfied that he was only given brown bread and sweets to eat there. Kemenci also said the leader asked for a change of clothes and to borrow money to spend at a military canteen.

In 1989, Romanian forces shot and killed about 1,100 people conducting anti-communist demonstrations, most of them unarmed.

On Dec. 22, the Ceausescus fled Bucharest in a helicopter after they were booed by a crowd and hours after Defense Minister Vasile Milea apparently committed suicide. Abandoned by the helicopter pilot and most of the leader’s aides, the Ceausescus then hitchhiked and ended up in Targoviste, where they were arrested by police.

On Dec. 24 provisional leaders who took over after the Ceausescus fled Bucharest decided the couple would stand trial the next day.

The trial lasted just two hours during which the defendants said they did not recognize the legitimacy of the court and called former aides attending the trial “traitors.” Both were convicted and immediately executed in the building’s courtyard.

The museum will open to the public later this month, with tickets costing 7 lei ($2.10).

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