This Reddit thread claims that the Soviet secret police used hidden x-ray machines to give people cancer in order to remove them quitely from power. I've heard that claim colloquially before but have hard time believing it.

Apparently, in the early '60s the communist leaders of some European countries also received the same treatment from the Soviets, who wanted to get rid of them. They were invited to Moscow at some conferences and put to wait in some hallways that had X-ray machines embedded in the walls and received high doses of radiation. Gheorghiu-Dej, the leader of Romania, died after such a visit from liver cancer.

Another similar claim in the same Reddit thread:

the secret police in Communist Romania subjected the leaders of a 1977 coal miners' strike to 5-minute chest X-rays to ensure that they developed cancer

Yet another claim:

Stasi perfected the method to a ray gun constantly firing at the living quarters of a political prison. Allegedly.

Is it true that secret police in the Eastern block used X-ray machines to give people cancer?

  • 2
    That Reddit post cites this Wikipedia page. I think you should quote the relevant part in your question. (Of course, Wikipedia does have a source, but it is not freely available online...)
    – Laurel
    Oct 18, 2017 at 3:16
  • 1
    I think the real problem here is with demonstrating that any dosage of X-rays that could be administered in such a manner would reliably cause cancer.
    – jamesqf
    Oct 18, 2017 at 17:49

1 Answer 1


This claim comes (according to multiple Wikipedia pages) from Crampton, R. J. (1997), Eastern Europe in the twentieth century and after, Routledge

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This is a relatively scholarly book, however this passage does not have specific references, and a cursory look to the bibliography did not reveal any specific source supporting it.

In my personal opinion, this claim is possible, yet unlikely. Assassination through radiation is certainly known to have happened, but it's usually much easier to achieve through poisoning. In fact, Securitate is claimed to have used such methods prior to 1977 in this memoir:

enter image description here

Red Horizons: The True Story of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescus' Crimes, Lifestyle, and Corruption by Ion Mihai Pacepa

Furthermore, the claim seems to be limited to Reddit, Wikipedia and the book itself. I expected confirmations to be easier to find, this makes me think this could have been a little bit of propaganda sneaked in the Crampton book.

  • 1
    Part of what I don't understand about the claim is that they are specifically chest x-rays. Does that mean the union leaders were offered X-rays in a lab (perhaps under the pretence of screening for tuberculosis?), given the appropriate lead shielding to protect non-chest areas, but the "shutter speed" was secretly set to 5 minutes? Or that they were secretly radiated in another scenario, and it was full body - not limited to the chest? Or something I can't imagine?
    – Oddthinking
    Oct 18, 2017 at 12:59
  • I think they did not realize they were being X-rayed. The government wanted to get rid of them quietly, so they allegedly gave them cancer so it would appear as natural causes.
    – ventsyv
    Oct 18, 2017 at 14:43
  • I would assume that 5 minutes of x-ray would warm you up considerably, but that's just me...
    – Sklivvz
    Oct 18, 2017 at 17:55
  • 3
    @Sklivvz, it's just you. Enough x-rays to warm you up by a tenth of a degree C is a radiation dose of around 400 Gy, or about ten times the "dead in 48 hours" dose. We don't know what a radiation dose that high will do to you, since the only people who have experienced such exposures died of other causes (eg. being impaled by a reactor control rod).
    – Mark
    Oct 19, 2017 at 0:53
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    Sustained x-rays is essentially Fluoroscopy, which is to be minimized, but at least one procedure has an average duration of 5-minutes. I doubt very much that would be permitted if it were a lethal dose. Risky, sure, but certainly not guaranteed fatal cancer.
    – Kevin
    Oct 20, 2017 at 23:21

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