A ceremony was held to mark the start of renovation work on the main tower at the Staro Sajmiste concentration camp, which operated under German Nazi control during World War II.
“We are starting to restore the memory of the camp by starting to reconstruct the central tower, its iconic symbol,” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in a speech at the ceremony.
“The reconstruction of the central tower at the Staro Sajmiste is a symbol of determination to reconstruct our own collective memory,” Vucic added.
Some 10,000 Serbs, 7,000 Jews and at least 60 Roma died at Staro Sajmiste in 1941 and 1942.
The camp was on territory that was under the formal control of the Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia, but it was run by the Waffen SS, and Serbian police carried out the arrests of the Jews.
The Independent State of Croatia was a fascist puppet state supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, which enacted racial laws targeting Serbs, Jews and Roma and ran a system of concentration camps.
The director of the Staro Sajmiste Memorial Centre, Krinka Vidakovic Petrov, said there are plans for reconstruction of more former concentration camp facilities on the site and two museums are to be opened, dedicated to two phases of the camp’s operations.
“We have to do it and it is not only our debt to the victims, it is a way to say to ourselves ‘we have not forgotten them, we will not let anyone forget us tomorrow’, and so we do not go through the evil that these people went through,” said Vidakovic Petrov.
In 2020, Serbia adopted a law to establish a memorial centre at the Staro Sajmiste.