TIRANA, Albania — Albania's National Museum opened a new wing Monday on the abuses of the former communist regime, timing the dedication to the 21st anniversary of the toppling of former communist dictator Enver Hoxha's monument.
Some 100,000 Albanians were imprisoned, sent to internment camps or executed during the 46 years of Hoxha's repressive regime.
Albanians toppled a 20-foot (6-meter) statue of Hoxha in the capital's central Skanderbeg Square on Feb. 20, 1991, about two months after the collapse of the communist regime. Hoxha himself died in 1985.
The museum has photographs of mass graves where many of the executed were buried, as well as handcuffs, chains and victim's clothes and personal belongings.
"Europe has known many dictators and dictatorships in its history. But it has registered in its memory two of the cruelest dictators of all the times – Adolph Hitler and Enver Hoxha," Prime Minister Sali Berisha said at the opening ceremony.
This is the second museum exhibit dedicated to the abuses of the former regime, but museum head Luan Malltezi said the new exhibition contains richer material and shows "why Albania's communist regime was the most brutal in Eastern Europe."
Until Albanian communism collapsed after student protests in December 1990, activities considered subversive were dealt with by Hoxha's powerful secret police, the Sigurimi. About 40,000 people were held in 48 labor camps set up across the country, while another 26,000 were imprisoned in jails, according to authorities and rights groups.
Some 6,500 people were executed or died while in detention, but only about 500 bodies have been found to date.
However, many of those who suffered under the former regime are still dissatisfied with what they say are unfulfilled pledges on compensation and reintegration into Albanian society.
Bedri Blloshmi, who spent 15 years in the notorious Spac prison, 62 miles (100 kilometers) north of the capital of Tirana, said none of Albania's post-communist governments had helped.
"No one is interested in us. Where should we ask for our rights?" he said during the exhibition opening. "There is only one hope for us: To die as soon as possible so that we are rid of the sons of the former communists, who persecuted us then and who now run the country."
Those who suffered political persecution have been awarded compensation of 2,000 leks (euro14; $18.5) per day of imprisonment. Out of 25,000 applicants, only 7,000 have received funds and they have gotten only the first of eight installments of what they are entitled to.