So many people were buried alive by bulldozers in the barren fields around the Pul-e-Charkhi Prison on Kabul's outskirts that guilty soldiers later said it was like an earthquake as their victims tried to claw their way out.
Thirty-four years later, the names and details of nearly 5,000 of those victims — arrested, tortured and killed by the Afghan Communist government in 1978 and 1979 — have resurfaced, catalogued in detailed records released this month.
Although the so-called death lists were originally compiled by the Afghan government and languished, unreleased, for decades, they were unearthed by Dutch investigators and have beenpublished on the Web site of the Netherlands national prosecutor's office.
The Afghan government's reaction to the release of the lists was initially cautious, and President Hamid Karzai was quoted as saying that reconciliation was more important than prosecutions.
It is a sensitive issue in Afghanistan, and not just because so many former Communist officials now hold high positions in government, especially in the military and police hierarchies. Calls to prosecute old Communists inevitably lead to calls to prosecute all those who came after them and committed massacres of their own during the three decades of conflict that followed.
But as word spread among thousands of relatives of the victims, the death lists went viral, lighting up social media among a younger generation, and bringing calls from older people for prosecutions. Finally, pressed by Sima Samar, the head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, President Karzai declared Monday and Tuesday national days of mourning.
Mosques in Kabul and throughout the country were thronged with mourners for the victims on Monday, and many memorials were planned in rural villages that were particularly hard hit by the wave of torture and killings carried out by Afghanistan's intelligence service at the time.
Just in the village of Gul Qala, in Kabul Province, 25 people were on the newly released lists. They were all relatives of Mualavi Abdul Aziz Mujahid, a former jihadi commander and a politician; they included uncles, cousins and in-laws.
At the time, Mr. Mujahid was 10 and knew little of the ferment around him, until he saw an older cousin, a religious scholar and a farmer named Shah Dahla, arrested by plainclothes agents.
Mr. Dahla had just returned from the muddy fields, barefoot, and the agents refused to allow him a moment to rinse off his feet and put his sandals on.
The memory reduces Mr. Mujahid to tears 34 years later.
"Over the years, I have seen a lot of dead bodies in a lot of battles," he said. He later fought the Communist government, the Soviets and then other jihadis in the civil war, and finally the Taliban. "But this person's innocence hurts me deeply."
Commies in Afghanistan worry about making their atrocities public