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Serbia, scholars trying to preserve Holocaust forgotten camp

Topovske Supe's future still uncertain, Italian historian says

18 October, 17:10
(by Stefano Giantin) (ANSA) - BELGRADE, 18 OTT - Researchers in Serbia are trying to preserve the site, currently under private ownership, of a concentration camp where Jews and Roma where held by German occupation forces during World War Second, before being executed.

The German army established a concentration camp for Jews and Roma at the Topovske Supe army site, in the Serbian capital Belgrade in August 1941. By November 1941, when the camp was disbanded, 5,000 Jews and 1,500 Roma, all men, were interned at the camp, used for forced labor, and the vast majority of prisoners were executed near Belgrade. After the war, the camp was returned to the Yugoslavian army, before being converted for economic activities. Privatized several years ago, the site of former camp was chosen as a site for a new shopping mall, causing uproar. The Serbian authorities declared the area of the Topovske Supe camp a protected area in February 2020, but "it remains to be seen in the agreement between the authorities and the private owner to what extent and in what way it will be preserved," said the local research institute 'Center for Public History'. The Center is working on a project called 'Mapping the Holocaust - Places of Remembrance in Serbia', conducting research on the locations of camps for Jews and Roma in Serbia during the Second World War.

Topovske Supe is an iconic site and should be preserved together with "the memory of the victims", the Center said, asking anyone who has photos, knowledge or other documentation related to the camp to contact the center, which is working on a historical archive dedicated to the camp.

"Preserving the memory of the camp means preserving the memory of the victims of the Nazism," the director of the Center, the Italian historian Milovan Pisarri, told ANSA. "Today it is more important than ever: the strength of the last survivors is disappearing and the far right is growing everywhere in Europa. We must be at the forefront in stemming the return of Nazism and fascism and in preventing all those initiatives aimed at denying or destroying the memory of the Shoah, including those dictated by economic interests, as in the case of Topovske Supe." Topovske Supe remains at risk of becoming a shopping mall in the future, the historian claims. "After various local and international pressures, the Serbian parliament approved a special law on the construction of a memorial dedicated to the Sajmiste camp, active between 1941 and 1944 in Belgrade.

According to the text of the law, Topovske Supe are also part of the memorial even if geographically. However, the path is long and difficult: now the state must buy back those buildings, renovate them and transform them into a museum. For now there are no steps in this direction," Pisarri explains.

Therefore, the importance of the initiative. "We want to launch a message: wherever there are places like Topovske Supe, local initiatives can and must be organized to prevent the destruction of sites linked to the history of Nazi and fascist crimes - primarily the Shoah." (ANSA).

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