WW II - Concentration camps and the execution sites


Immediately after Hitler came to power, a number of concentration camps were set up, and their network continued to spread. Yugoslav citizens found themselves in 69 concentration camps and their regional camps throughout Europe.

Concentration camps in Banjica, Sajmiste, Zemun, Topovske Supe and the Milisiceva brick plant in Belgrade fell under the jurisdiction of the Fourth Gestapo Department and Special Police force followed by work camps, German TOT organizations in Zemun, Borska mine and Trepca.

The concentration camp in Banjica was established on July 10, 1941, by a decision of the German commander of the city and German State Secret Police. The warden of the concentration camp in Banjica throughout its existence was Svetozar Vujkovic. Special Police provided the mechanism of the camp’s management and armed guards. All its personnel were chosen from the ranks of Special Police agents and agents of the Command of the Serbian State Guard of the Administration of the City of Belgrade. Imprisoned partisans, communists, members of the underground, pre-war opponents to the state regime, intellectuals, patriots and democrats, members of Draza Mihailovic’s Chetnik movement and citizens were brought to the camp, imprisoned in police raids, hostages, of various age, senior citizens and children and men and women of various nationalities. From there, a large number of prisoners were faced with firing squads in Jajince and other execution sites in the vicinity of Belgrade, or were deported to other concentration camps throughout occupied Europe; Auschwitz, Mathausen, Dachau and others.

Belgrade’s Sajmiste (Fair), on the left bank of the Sava River, was turned into an infamous concentration camp. This camp was the main collection center for Belgrade’s Jewish citizens. Due to the need to accommodate thousands of new arrivals, in the first half of March of 1942 a final decision was made in Berlin on the ultimate solution for the Jewish prisoners of the Sajmiste camp. It was decided that all Jewish prisoners, mostly women and children (since by then most of the men had been murdered), should be moved as soon as possible, i.e. killed. For that purpose, a special truck was sent to Belgrade – a mobile gas chamber, suffocation room, with two trained and experienced SS members. From the beginning of April until May 10, 1942 on the road from the camp to the previously prepared graves on the execution sites in Jajinci and Bezanijska Kosa, the prisoners of the Jewish camp in Zemun were assassinated. In this camp, around 6.320 Jewish citizens were killed.

Following massive clashes and battles of the German armed forces with the National Liberation Army and Partisan units, Germans brought civilians to this camp, primarily Serbs and a few undesirable Croats from the territory of the Independent State of Croatia as a sign of reprisal. From this camp a large number of prisoners were deported to concentration camps in Mathausen, Auschwitz, Jasenovac and others. The prisoners from Sajmiste were also deported to work camps in Norway, under the code of Viking.

According to existing historical sources, a total number of 31.972 prisoners were brought to the collection camp in Sajmiste – Zemun, mostly Serbs, but also Jews, Roma, Croats, Muslims, Greeks, Albanians and others. In the camp, or immediately after being taken from the camp, 10.636 prisoners lost their lives. A large number of prisoners died in the camp due to the horrific accommodations, cold, hunger and contagious diseases.


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