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How real is Ceausescu’s claim to be running an independent foreign policy?
Romania does not have an independent policy. I should say that the Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu was the first leader in Eastern Europe to understand that his country cannot survive and cannot avoid its own people’s uprising without Western political support, money, and technology. In order to gain this Western support, Nicolae Ceausescu tried to sell something. Independence was the name of his game in the beginning of 1970s, and it was based on Western eagerness to encourage every single sign of independence within the Soviet Bloc.
Have Western leaders been duped by this propaganda about Romania’s independent mind?
When I broke with Bucharest in 1978, the 20 million people of Romania got almost 20 billion dollars credit from the West. Is that saying something?
What’s the purpose of the strategy of stealing Western technology?
You know the Romanian President has a theoretical principle: Is it moral to steal from the proletarian’s mortal enemy? And it’s much cheaper to steal than to buy from the West.
What scale was this stealing carried on at? Was it systematic stealing?
Oh yes. I should say that during my last years in the Romanian foreign intelligence service, there were two main sides of its activity. The first was technological intelligence, and the second was the manipulation of Western opinion. The whole size of the Romanian intelligence service was increased three times with its effectives divided into these two main directions.
Could you give me perhaps one or two examples of particular types of technology that were stolen?
Sure. For instance, during the 1970s Romania was among the last in the Warsaw Pact in stealing Western military technology. By the time of my break with Bucharest, Romania was among the first three. One example was the alloy, the very hard alloy developed by the United States for cosmic and military rockets. Another example was micro-electronics for military use, which was received with great enthusiasm by Moscow. On the other side, Romania organised a total espionage against the West, stealing whatever it could find. I would say that by the time of my break with Bucharest, espionage had become the most important component of the Romanian economy.
Could you give us some examples to illustrate Ceausescu’s cult of personality?
Well there was Scînteia, Romania’s main newspaper, with its first page dedicated to Ceausescu day after day. The second page was more or less dedicated to his wife, Elena. The Romanian TV was basically an ode to Ceausescu’s day-to-day activity. In schools, Ceausescu’s speeches were the main subject of their education.
Does this cult of personality now include Elena Ceausescu as well? Is she often involved in that?
Yes, I should say that Romania is now a family-owned country in which Nicolae Ceausescu is the President, Elena Ceausescu is the First Deputy Prime Minister, in fact the one who runs the government, Niku Ceausescu, the son, is the Minister of Youth, the three of them are members of the Romanian equivalent of the Politburo. Nicolae Ceausescu’s brother Ilie is running the Ministry of Defence, Nicolae Ceausescu’s other brother, whose name is also Nicolae, is running part of the security forces, and the rest of Ceausescu’s relatives and Elena’s relatives are in charge of different other parts, significant parts of Romanian economical or cultural life.
Does Ceausescu believe in communism, and what does he think it is?
Yes, he does. He is a fanatic communist. He truly believes in communism. Also, looking at his residences, looking at his personal wealth, one may say that he believes in communism but he wants it not for himself, but for others.
Does he have a personal bank account? Does he have private money of his own?
Yes, he does. In my book ‘Red Horizon’ I showed a few aspects of his personal bank accounts in Romania and abroad.
What is roughly the size of his fortune?
It’s difficult to say; according to my knowledge, the part I knew was around 400 million dollars.
Could you describe his and Elena’s personalities and then their general style of living?
Speaking about Ceausescu, I would say I would emphasize three main things. The first, as I said, is that he is a fanatical Marxist, and he has made Romania the country with the most orthodox Marxist domestic policy. The second is that Ceausescu owes his political career to Moscow. His only graduate course is a political course in Moscow. The third is his personal devotion to Marxism. As regards Elena, I have always compared her with Imelda Marcos or Michelle Duvalier, and I think that there are basically two differences between her and these other two leaders. First, Elena is not as cute as Imelda or Michelle Duvalier, and she tried to compensate playing the woman of science. She used her influence for collecting scientific titles and medals. The second is that she is a communist, that’s the second difference. She is a communist, but like her husband, she likes communism for others, not for herself.
Could you give us some examples of the extravagant lifestyle of the Ceausescus?
For instance, the summer residence at the Black Sea in a town called Neptun, which is dedicated to the presidential family. The winter residence in Predeal and a new winter residence in Sinaia in what was formerly the royal palace. The royal palace became a museum, and after 15 years of being a museum it was transformed into Nicolae Ceausescu’s winter residence. The spring residence in Snagov, near Bucharest. The personal yacht, received as a personal present from King Hussein, I described the story in ‘Red Horizons’.
Could you actually tell us about that in fact?
It happened in 1975, when Nicolae Ceausescu made an official visit to Jordan. The King invited the Romanian President and his wife to his personal house at the Red Sea. Nicolae Ceausescu took me with them. It was a nice sunny day, King Hussein took us on his personal yacht; in the afternoon they returned to their homes. In the evening a closed-door meeting was held between the Romanian President, his wife and myself. ‘I want this yacht’ is what I heard. So their desire was sent to King Hussein, who in a very nice way apologised, he said, ‘this is the yacht I got from my wife, I can’t give it to you. But I can order a new one. What about Friendship for its name?’ One year later, I was in charge of taking this boat from Istanbul to Bucharest and it became their personal yacht. In 1978, during their last visit to the United States, I had many tasks. I prepared this visit, I came with the President to the United States, I had many tasks, but one was presents for Elena Ceausescu. For instance, a fur coat was the key word, like purse was the key word during some other visit to Japan.
Could you explain the mechanics of twisting, arm-twisting people, pressurising people to give her presents, in a specific case? In the fur coat case for example.
You know, it was very different from country to country. In Western Europe it’s much easier because people are used to giving presents. There was enough to give the idea. For instance, during the visit to West Germany, cars was the idea, and they got it. They got Mercedeses for themselves, they got an Audi car for their son Niku, they got a lot of cars from every single big company they visited. In the United States, it was a little bit more difficult because of the customs there. When I let the Texas Instruments management know that Elena would be very happy to get a mink coat by the end of the visit, their reaction was to leak the whole story to the press. So the ways are different, the results are different also.
Could you tell us about Ceausescu’s private wine?
It’s called Yellow. And it’s yellow. It’s produced in a very small quantity. It’s the only wine he drinks at home and he drinks it abroad. He has a personal waiter whose main job is to carry his bottles of wine. Nobody has the right to try, to taste, to use, to touch this wine in Romania. When he has guests, he has his wine and he has another one for his guests.
And the clothes. Tell us about his clothes.
I want to say something. In 1978, I prepared Nicolae Ceausescu’s visit to London, and then I went there with Ceausescu. There was a big dinner organised by the British Queen, there was a dinner organised by Ceausescu. At his dinner he had his wine in his glass, and another one for the Queen and for her husband.
Can you tell us about his clothes?
He learned from Fidel Castro about some CIA attempts to poison him. I was there when he learned it. Nicolae Ceausescu changed his rules about his personal clothes. With one suit wore once, burnt, never used again.
Can you tell us about how Romania sells people Ceausescu’s own anti-Semitism?
You know, for many, relatively many years, Romania became more and more known in the West as a country which started to liberalise its emigration rules, especially the emigration of Jews and of Germans born in Romania. I was in the middle of this whole emigration process, and I should say that the rule was that nobody could emigrate unless he was paid for. There were secret, and when I say secret I mean it, very secret agreements, between Bucharest and Tel Aviv, between Bucharest and Bonn, establishing the price per head of people allowed to emigrate. It is not easy to believe that in our century you can find a government selling people as slaves, but that’s the truth about the trumpeted Romanian policy about liberalising emigration.
What’s Ceausescu’s own personal view of Jews?
Anti-Semitism. Now, more than 40 years after the Holocaust, Romania is a country where anti-Semitism is its national policy. I want to tell a few examples. I had the order to fire, to clean the foreign intelligence service of every single Jew. One very good intelligence officer, his name was Bica, was fired because his wife was adopted by a Jewish family. That was the depth of anti-Semitism in Romania. The most important levels of the Romanian army, armed forces, were also cleaned, if I may use this word, of Jews.
What privileges are open to members of the ruling elite?
Let me tell you about myself. In order to buy food, it was enough to call, and I got everything delivered at home. Villas for summer, villas for spring, a special hospital, while for most normal people there are two in a single bed in Romanian normal hospitals. Two cars, two drivers … I was not of the highest levels of the hierarchy, and the higher your level, the darker the colour of your car was. Mine was just navy blue.
How controlled by the Securitate is life in Romania in general?
I should say without making a mistake that the Romanian security forces were able to know in proportion of probably 70, maybe more, percent what the Romanian people think, to know their intimate life, and to act to influence their intimate life, or to neutralise it if it was considered hostile.
Could you tell us roughly what the size of the Securitate force is?
I would say that altogether it’s 1 to 15, one security officer, an agent for every 15 Romanian people.
Do they have their own troops even in the Securitate?
Yes, they do. They have their own troops in charge of the security of the Romanian president. And it’s their only job.
Can you tell me about Ceausescu’s plan to monitor the whole population, the entire population, through the telephone system?
Sure. It was in 1978, when the Romanian president made a visit to an exhibition organised by the Securitate. Its topic was monitoring the population. Its goal was that in five years the whole Romanian population would be monitored. The main instrument presented to the Romanian president at this exhibition was a new type of telephone. The telephone had different faces, different colours, different shapes, but the inside of the telephone was the same. It was a telephone which worked as a microphone any time it was not used as a telephone. I mean any time the telephone was on the hook it became a microphone.
And where were these telephones going to be placed?
The only Romanian telephone was to be placed with everybody, Romanians and foreigners. The telephone was conceived to give the Romanian Securitate the ability to turn on a switch – if I may say so – and to listen to everybody’s house. Prior to this, they had to go through very very difficult procedures in order to install and to conceal microphones in somebody’s house. Even in Romania it was not an easy job. Now, once these telephones were installed everywhere, replacing the normal telephone, there was supposed to be no problem in listening, in monitoring every single house that had such a telephone. It doesn’t matter if it was the house of a Romanian citizen or the house of a foreigner.
Can you give me an example of when Ceausescu received letters abusing him, how he tried to respond?
There were thousands, there were thousands.
Could you tell us about them.
Anonymous letters were the rule in Romania. Ceausescu wanted the scalp of the writers, and evidently it was not an easy job. His order was that the Securitate build a huge archive of handwriting samples. By the time I broke with Bucharest, I should say that around 50% of the Romanian active population had handwriting samples there. On the other hand, he ordered a huge collection of samples to be taken from every single typewriter. By the time I broke with Bucharest, the collection of these samples was just beginning. A couple of years later, a presidential decree established the rule that every single typewriter should be registered with the militia, that’s the name of the police there, and this enabled the Bucharest Securitate to have a sample of every single typewriter used in that country. I think it’s the only country in Europe which was able to put together these two collections, i.e. handwriting samples and typewriter samples.
Are there political prisons and prisoners in Romania?
I would say theoretically not. The written law was that we don’t have political prisoners. The unwritten law was, if you have a political enemy, try to neutralise him, to arrest him, as an ordinary criminal. Use your imagination. That was a broken record, the motto within the Securitate, ‘use your imagination’. ‘If you cannot find anything better’ was what the Chief of the Securitate said, ‘just slip a chocolate bar in his pocket while he is in a grocery store, and this will give you the opportunity to put him in jail. Once in jail, it’s yours.’
And how long would people stay in jail sometimes?
You know, enough to be neutralised, enough to be irradiated, enough to be changed from a political adversary, if you want, into somebody who doesn’t represent any danger.
Tell us about how they use radiation on people?
I don’t know how they use radiation, but radiation was used in gaols. Everything was received from Moscow; Andropov was the chief of the Soviet KGB at that time and the use of radiation became a very very secret practice within the Soviet Bloc, generated by Yuri Andropov.
And prisoners were put in cells…
…where they were irradiated?
Could you tell us about the Jiu Valley strike and how Ceausescu responded to it?
Yeah. I was there when the Romanian President learned about the strike, and I was there when the Romanian President decided how to deal with this strike. To cut a very long story short, the leaders of the strikes were identified using agents and electronic monitoring. After they were identified, they were hospitalised in psychiatric hospital or transferred to different corners of Romania. I want to say that the Jiu Valley strike was a turning point in Romania’s domestic policy because after this strike, Romanian President Ceausescu gave the order that the whole Romanian population be electronically monitored, saying “I don’t want to have another Jiu Valley”.
Have Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu personally ordered attacks on people, the death of individuals? Even outside Romania?
In ‘Red Horizons’ I give quite a few examples by name. I want to add to this list the fact that for instance my publisher, Al Regnery, was threatened that he would be killed, and I would be killed if he published the book. I want to say that as I learned, Radio Free Europe was threatened in the same way if they broadcast chapters from ‘Red Horizons’. And I want to say that as I understood, Bucharest is spreading the idea that they are working to kill myself, it does not matter in which corner of the United States.
And do you know of people that have been killed, in places like the United States, on the orders of Ceausescu?
I know people killed outside the United States, in the West, and I describe these cases in ‘Red Horizons’. One was a priest. The killing was not the old-fashioned way of killing – go in somebody’s face and shoot him. One was killed under the simulation of a car accident. The wheels of his car were unscrewed and he ended his life in a tree in West Germany. Now some others were beaten, terribly beaten. The idea was to be beaten so bad that he won’t be able to speak or write any more, for the rest of his life. And there were such cases. I want to say that a previous Romanian Prime Minister Ion Gheorghe Maurer, who is a lawyer specialised in international law, repeatedly told Nicolae Ceausescu, he said, “Niko, you are the President of Romania, you can do anything you want. Please don’t give the order to kill. If a king gives an order to kill, he is still a criminal. Don’t do that.” He played a role, and for a time the orders were just “beat him”. But from time to time, orders to kill were given.
What does Ceausescu think of the proletariat, the workers, of Romania?
I would say that, trying to be short, people in Romania are numbers. No more than numbers.
And has he expressed open contempt of the workers to you, in your presence? Have you heard him say things denigrating them?
He used to say, ‘they have one single job: to work harder and longer’.
Why haven’t there been more rebellions in opposition to this insane rule?
There are many reasons, but I think that we should take into account the fact that because of its limited size in square miles, and the number of people, Romania probably became one of the first Soviet Bloc countries able to monitor almost its whole population, which is not practically possible in the Soviet Union, but it’s practically possible in Romania. Romania’s Securitate knows almost every single wheel turning among the population. And they can manoeuvre the population. They can manipulate people’s opinion, or if need be, they can neutralise it. Among others, the Romanian Securitate has the task of presenting the President with weekly bulletins about the public opinion. And there is, in very short sentences, every important thing they learned from the mail censorship, the microphones and the telephone monitors. And this is the fundament of the Romanian domestic policy.
What damage has Ceausescu’s rule done to Romania? In your view.
I should start saying that Romania was a country that once exported grain and oil. Romania now imports grain and oil. I should say that years ago, Romania’s capital Bucharest was called Le petite Paris. Now the temperature in houses was just raised from 40 to 50 degrees during the winters. That means in private homes and in public homes, including hospitals. And I should say that Romania is one of the very few countries in the world where food is rationed. I think this is the economic way of the Ceausescu age. On the other hand, I would say that Ceausescu’s era killed a whole generation of Romanians. You know, I was born in a free Romania as a free man. But millions of people were born in a Romania around which Ceausescu built a political Berlin Wall. I would say that, and I hope that history will confirm, that Ceausescu’s age, which he calls the golden era of Romania, is the blackest age in Romanian history.
You would probably expect from a fellow who here in the West is called a defector, you would expect him to have harsh words against the government he defected from. I needed ten whole years here in the United States, and I waited for these ten years, in order to be able to see today’s Romania with American eyes, with Western eyes, in order to measure Romania with our Western measurement. And I would say that the fellow who is talking to you now is not the one who defected in 1978, he an American, who tries to see the life, the people there, with our Western eyes. That’s what I see now.
Can communism work?
I would say that during my 27 years in the most secret position in the Romanian government, the most important thing I learned is that communism can never ever work. Even with help received or stolen from the West, even with terror at home, it could never ever work. That’s my lifelong conclusion. I would say that you may want to ask me why, and it’s not easy to say why in a few words, but I would say just two things: Communism is an ideology that ignores the most important natural human desire, freedom. And communism is an ideology that ignores people themselves. You know, history, every single kind of history, was made by people. Communism does not have people, it has numbers.
Ion Mihai Pacepa (1928–2021)
Ion Mihai Pacepa was a general in the Romanian communist secret police, Securitate, which he joined in 1951. He acted as a top counselor for the President Nicolae Ceaușescu and he was deputy of the head of the External Intelligence Service.
In 1956 Pacepa was put in charge of the spying in the Federal Republic of Germany. It was West Germany where he defected from, in 1978, using a work visit as an escape opportunity. He fled to the United States where he received political asylum and collaborated with CIA over the years.
He became the most famous Romania spy due to the revelations he made public about Nicolae Ceaușescu’s policy regarding spying, particularly tehnological intelligence against the West. He published a series of articles and books. Excerpts from “Red Horizons” (1988) were broadcast by Radio Free Europe and the book was published in Romania after 1989.
Through his escape Pacepa played an essential role for what the Presidential Commission for the Analysis of Communist Dictatorship in Romania (2006) called “the dramatic degradation of Ceaușescu’s image” and the “criminal nature of the regime and of Securitate”.
Pacepa died in 2021 in USA.