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NEWS FROM FJC

Belgrade's Revolutionary Move: a Symbol of a Terrible Crime Instead of a Shopping Center

Reason has prevailed, this is a revolutionary decision, we are strongly encouraged by this move of the City of Belgrade - there will be a memorial center instead of a shopping center at Topovske šupe near Autokomanda, a symbol of remembrance of Jews, but also Serbs and Roma who died there. The renovation of the tower at Staro sajmiše will also begin by the end of the year.

This is how Robert Sabados, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Serbia, commented for the Sputnik on the decision to return the land in an attractive location in Belgrade, sold a decade and a half ago for the construction of a shopping center, to the jurisdiction of the state.

He does not hide his joy that, as he says, at the end of a painful struggle, this place will be declared a public good.

"This is proof that we should listen to each other, respect each other, because had that been the case in the past, there would have been no suffering. The Holocaust is just a consequence of the opposite behavior," says Sabados.

Memorial center instead of shopping center

The Law on Staro Sajmište Memorial Center, which refers to keeping the memory of the victims of the Nazi concentration camp at the former Belgrade Fairgrounds, but also at Autokomanda alive, came into force at the beginning of the year, but the issue of a memorial center at Topovske šupe had been hampered by ownership of the land, and above all by decades of oblivion.

"Topovske šupe were completely alienated, completely forgotten as a place of suffering during the first months of 1941. We had to hold lengthy talks emphasizing that this is an extremely important point of our common history, because this place is not important only for Jews, but for Jews, Roma and Serbs. People of all nationalities were killed there, as well as at Staro sajmište. There are several buildings there, two of which have practically remained standing ever since the 1940s. We have made our best efforts to keep them in their authentic form, to preserve them for the present - because of the future. This decision is a big, big step to finally make it happen," Sabados said.

Topovske šupe – two camps

Historian Milan Koljanin, who successfully defended his master's thesis on the execution site at Staro sajmište, is also enthusiastic about the decision not to build a shopping center at Topovske šupe, and he is now preparing a special paper on Topovske šupe, because, as he says, the site has been wrapped in ambiguity for a long time.

There were two camps in the vicinity at the time, one for refugees, Serbs deported from other parts of occupied Yugoslavia, formed in June 1941, and in the second half of August, Jews from Banat and Belgrade and later Roma, mostly men began arriving in Topovske šupe. They were transported across the Danube and killed at several locations.

"When the killing of Jews from Staro sajmište started, in order to deceive them, they would load their personal belongings into a truck and put notes with names on them for easier identification. The Jews would then enter the van - a gas chamber, cross the pontoon bridge near the camp and, according to my reconstruction, they would pass through Nemanjina street and down the Boulevard of Liberation directly to Topovske šupe. The truck with personal belongings would stop there, while the gas van and the camp commander’s car would continue towards Jajinci, where they would be buried," Koljanin explains.

He adds that Staro sajmište and Topovske šupe are also connected by the fact that the Jews detained at Autokomanda had to work on arranging the camp on the Sava, where their wives and children were later brought. In the end, they were also transported from Topovske šupe to that terrible camp on the bank of the Sava.

"So, this area is important for both the Holocaust and the Porajmos, i.e., for the suffering of Jews and Roma, but also for the history of suffering of Serbs in the Second World War. It is very important that a new plan for detailed regulation of this area is being drafted, because the original Plan foresaw the passage of a very important road through this place of suffering, "says Koljanin.

Implementation slowed by the pandemic 

Robert Sabados adds that the realization of the big project of founding the Staro Sajmište Memorial Center has been slowed down by the pandemic, but that good news is coming regarding the camp area at the former fairgrounds.

"Works on the renovation of the central tower are in the plans for this year, and it will be the seat of the future Memorial Center, from which solutions will be researched for other parts of the Staro sajmište complex, as well as for Topovske šupe. A design has been in the process of preparing for some time now. "It should be completed these days. This means that the renovation of the space in the central tower will begin soon. There are also property and legal issues involved, which I hope will be resolved quickly," said the President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Serbia.

He adds that he is optimistic, because the decision not to build a shopping center on the land of Topovske šupe is a clear sign that the realization of the memorial is secured.

Koljanin, who often visits these grounds for research purposes, says that the pandemic must not hinder the rehabilitation of the facilities, because they are in a catastrophic condition.

"The tower must be urgently protected, there are people there, some are moving out, others are moving in, I see that something is constantly being built, partitioned, in fact the devastation of the central tower continues. The tower itself is prone to collapse. If something is not done urgently, its structure can collapse, it is also dangerous for passers-by", warns Koljanin.

Sputnik learns that the Ministry of Culture is also preparing a proposal for the formation of the Management Board of the Staro sajmište Memorial Center, which will be appointed by the Government of Serbia. This important institution will also be managed by experts proposed by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Serbia and the National Council of the Roma National Minority.

Goran Vesić, Deputy Mayor also announced that, when the Plan for detailed regulation of the Topovske šupe area  is  completed and adopted at the end of the year, the City of Belgrade, together with the Jewish community will announce a competition for its arrangement and construction of memorials.

Excerpt from an interview with Goran Vesić: The city is taking over Topovske šupe 

The city of Belgrade will declare the space at Autokomanda, where Topovske šupe are located, public by the end of the year and build a memorial center on it.

This will correct the great injustice inflicted on both Serbian and Jewish victims, when fifteen years ago that space was inappropriately sold for the construction of a shopping center - announced Goran Vesić, Deputy Mayor of Belgrade.

In an interview for the "Večernje novosti" daily, the Deputy Mayor reminds that the drafting of the Plan for detailed regulation of that part of the city (PDR) is underway, which is an opportunity to take over Topovske šupe, in order to build a memorial complex there.

- When the PDR is completed and adopted at the end of the year, and when the space is given a public purpose, the city, together with the Jewish community, will announce a competition for its arrangement and construction of a memorial. Not only Jews were killed here, but also Serbs, at the beginning of the Second World War; hostages who were later killed by the German occupier were held there as well.

Text source: Rs.sputniknews.com and Novosti.rs

Photo source: Holocaust.rs


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