A cinematic retelling of the story of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand of Romania (March 24, 1909–February 17, 2001), who was imprisoned and tortured 14 years in Russian prisons for his belief in Jesus Christ. The film follows closely the testimony of Pastor Wurmbrand as written in his best-selling book, Tortured for Christ. The production was filmed entirely in Romania, in the very prison where Richard underwent years of horrific torture.
The Story Behind “Tortured for Christ”
First Arrest and Imprisonment (8.5 years)
In 1945 Pastor Richard and his wife, Sabina, attended the Congress of Cults organized by the Romanian Communist government. Many religious leaders came forward to praise Communism and to swear loyalty to the new regime. Sabina said, “Richard, stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ.” Richard warned, “If I do so, you’ll lose your husband.”
“I do not wish to have a coward as a husband,” she replied. Thus, Richard declared to the delegates, whose speeches were broadcast to the whole nation, that their duty is to glorify God and Christ alone.
Between 1945-1947, Richard distributed one million Gospels to Russian troops, often disguising the books as Communist propaganda. Richard also smuggled Gospels into Russia.
On February 29, 1948, the secret police kidnapped Richard while on his way to church and took him to their headquarters. He was tortured and locked in a solitary cell and labeled ‘Prisoner Number 1.’ In 1950, his wife Sabina was also imprisoned. She was forced to serve as a laborer on the Danube Canal project, leaving their nine-year-old son, Mihai, alone and homeless. Following her release in 1953, the Romanian authorities informed her that Richard had died in prison.
Second Arrest and Imprisonment (5 years)
Richard was released in 1956 after serving eight-and-a-half years in prison. He was warned never to preach again. While in prison, he went through horrific tortures at the hands of the brutal secret police. Despite the treatments and the warnings, he received from his persecutors, Richard resumed his work with the “underground” churches after his release.
He was re-arrested in 1959 through the conspiracy of an associate, and sentenced to 25 years. He was accused of preaching ideas contrary to Communist doctrine. Due to increased political pressure from Western countries, Richard was granted another amnesty and released in 1964.
In December 1965, the Norwegian Mission to the Jews and the Hebrew Christian Alliance paid $10,000 in ransom to the Communist government to allow the Wurmbrand family to leave Romania. Reluctant to leave his homeland, Richard was convinced by other underground church leaders to leave and become a “voice” to the world for the underground church. Richard, Sabina, and their son Mihai left Romania for Norway and then traveled on to England.
Ministry in Europe and America: A Voice for the Persecuted
Richard began his ministry of being a voice for persecuted Christians in England. Later, Richard moved on to the United States. In 1966 he appeared before a U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, where he stripped to the waist and revealed 18 deep torture wounds on his body. His story spread rapidly, leading to more and more speaking engagements.
In 1967, the Wurmbrands officially began a ministry committed to serving the persecuted church, called Jesus to the Communist World (later renamed The Voice of the Martyrs).
Richard is remembered with great affection as an outstanding man of God, passionate for the cause of Christ, powerful in evangelism, and persevering in suffering for the sake of the Jesus he loved. Sabina, who passed away August 11, 2000, is remembered as a woman of great integrity, a student of the Scriptures, a mighty faith warrior and a true helpmate to her husband. (Taken from the Voice of the Martyrs)
- Watch real footage of Richard Wurmbrand in his original cell in a Romanian prison, as he explains his imprisonment, torture, and faith.
- Watch the animated story of Richard Wurmbrand by the Torchlighters.
- Learn more about Richard Wurmbrand.
Runtime: 77 min
Cast: Emil Mandanac, Raluca Botez, Eduard Adam
Director: John Grooters
Writer: Steve Cleary, John Grooters