Estadio Nacional de Chile
Soccer stadium became a concentration camp

The coup and the ensuing annihilation of the left-wing popular movement had of course been very well prepared in the commando centres of the Chilean army. The large ‘Estadio Nacional de Chile’ of Santiago was immediately set up as a concentration camp. Within a few days more than 12,000 people, most of them students, volunteers and union leaders, had been imprisoned on the stands and in the changing rooms.

The offices were used for interrogation and torture. People were executed without any form of trial on the midfield and the bodies were removed at night by truck and buried at unknown locations around the town. Stories from foreign volunteers who had been imprisoned in the stadium were published in the international press after the volunteers’ expulsion, and told of the horrifying treatment by the military.

One American student couple told Associated Press: ‘The army executioners systematically made up groups of 20 to 25 people. They were taken to the soccer field. Then you heard the International being sung. Then you heard shots, and the singing became weaker and weaker. Until you didn’t hear anything any more.’

Herman Vuijsje and Koos Koster in the Haagse Post of 6 October 1973: ‘You wake up. Someone is lying with his legs on your stomach. There are 76 men on the stone floor of a changing room in a soccer stadium. The prisoners themselves estimated the number of people being held in the stadium at 12,000. My “section” had seven cells, each of them stuffed with an average of 80 people. For the 80 to 90 people who left each day, 100 to 120 arrived to take their place. On Monday morning someone reads out the news that Pablo Neruda has died. We hold a commemoration in our cell. Someone recites one of his poems by heart. In the afternoon we hear groaning and screaming in the cell next to ours. We hear the executioners calling: “Name, address!” The groaning goes on for an hour. When we are allowed to fetch a bowl of soup, we see that it was the Belgian Andres van Lancker, former staff member of Chile’s highest economic monitoring authority, who had been beaten up. He is lying on the stone floor like a rag together with three Chileans. Someone says: “They can smash your face up, but not your ideas.” Another person answers: “That’s why they kill you, because they think they will get rid of your ideas that way.” All the Dutch people are interrogated on Wednesday morning. One after the other we have to sign a statement that we have not been injured in any way. As extremists dangerous to the state we are all expelled and have to leave many other prisoners behind in fear, despair and distress.’

Juan René Muñoz Halcon, member of the socialist party: ‘The military junta wanted me to betray my former comrades. I was transferred to the stadium. To soften me up they had 30 prisoners come before the presidential stand. There were fellow party members and friends among them. The major ordered them to walk. There were two machine guns. When a few comrades began to walk, they were mown down by the machine guns. Those who hesitated were immediately shot by a large group of soldiers.’