Banjica concentration camp
|Banjicac concentration camp|
|Location||Banjica neighbourhood, Belgrade, Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia|
|Operated by||German occupational authorities, Serbian State Guard|
|Operational||July 1941 - September 1944|
|Inmates||primarily Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascists|
|Number of inmates||23,697 (including 688 Jews)|
|Killed||3,849 (including 382 Jews)|
The Banjica concentration camp was a Nazi German concentration camp in occupied Serbia during the Second World War. Located in the Banjica suburb of Belgrade, it was originally a center for holding hostages. The camp was later used to hold Serbs, Jews, Roma, captured Partisans, and other opponents of Nazi Germany. 23,697 individuals were detained in Banjica throughout the war, including 688 Jews. 3,849 of these perished, including at least 382 Jews.
The camp was open from July 1941 to September 1944. It was jointly run by German occupying forces, under the command of Gestapo official Willy Friedrich, and the Serbian State Guard. The Serbian administrator of the camp was Svetozar Vujković, a pre-war policeman who enthusiastically collaborated with the fascists. Historian Jozo Tomasevich has called Banjica the most notorious concentration camp in Serbia during the Second World War.
Soon after capturing Belgrade during the Invasion of Yugoslavia, German forces set up numerous concentration camps in Serbia with the intention of using them to incarcerate, torture and execute Jews, anti-fascists and those deemed "unworthy of life". One of these camps was the Banjica concentration camp, which interned approximately 2,000 to 3,000 people by the end of 1941. After German occupational authorities gave orders for the establishment of a camp, Belgrade mayor Dragomir Jovanović had the former 18th Infantry army barracks of the Royal Yugoslav Army converted into the Banjica concentration camp.
Operation of the camp 
The Banjica concentration camp, also known as Anhalteleger Dedinje, opened in July 1941. It was run by the German Gestapo, in cooperation with members of the Special Police in Belgrade. Members of the Serbian State Guard acted as prison staff. The camp itself was used mostly to intern anti-fascists, the majority of whom were ethnic Serbs. It housed both men and women of all ages, as well as children. Prior to their arrival at the camp, prisoners would spend several days in the custody of the Gestapo and in Special Police prisons, where they would be tortured and beaten. By the time they were transferred from these detention centers to Banjica, some of the prisoners would already have displayed signs of serious mutilation. Throughout the operation of the camp, guards would regularly beat and mistreat prisoners. The camp was notorious for its brutality, and executions were frequent and random.
Belgrade police commissioner Svetozar Vujković was the Special Police commander of the camp. He collaborated enthusiastically with the Gestapo. His role included ordering murders and devising torture techniques. Execution lists, written entirely in Cyrillic, were drawn by him beginning in 1942. Vujković often selected victims at random, including children, and had his orders carried out by members of the Belgrade Special Police and the Serbian State Guard, as well as the Gestapo, who played the main role of executioners. Vujković, a high-ranking official in the pre-war Belgrade police who was involved in the persecution of communists in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia even before the outbreak of the Second World War, is said to have participated personally in interrogations and devised numerous humiliating torture techniques. Executions occurred frequently at Vujković's whim and he rarely asked for approval from German or Serbian authorities to carry out murders and ordered prisoners killed even in cases where the Ministry of Interior decided against execution. Vujković is reported to have begged to "personally shoot twenty young girls who were ordered for shooting that day." The first mass-execution in Banjica occurred on 17 December 1941, when 170 prisoners were shot.
In late 1944, the Germans forced a chain gang of Yugoslav prisoners to incinerate the remains of those killed in Banjica. A surviving member of the chain gang, Momčilo Damjanović, testified that the incineration of the corpses was organized by a unit of the Kommando 1005., headed by SS Standartenführer [Colonel] Paul Blobel, the man responsible for erasing traces of German atrocities throughout Nazi-occupied Europe. According to the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust:
|“||In November 1943 SS-Standartenführer Paul Blobel, the officer in charge of Aktion 1005, came to Belgrade in order to set up a unit that would disinter the bodies of the murder victims and burn them. The unit, consisting of fifty members of the Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police) and German military police, as well as 100 Jewish and Serbian prisoners was engaged in its gruesome task of obliterating the traces of the murders up to the fall of 1944.||”|
Overall, 23,697 individuals were detained in Banjica throughout the war, including 688 Jews. 3,849 of these perished, including at least 382 Jews. Those killed were murdered primarily by the Germans, but also by members of the Serbian State Guard. Several thousand prisoners from Banjica were sent to concentration and labour camps in Germany and Poland such as Mauthausen-Gusen and Auschwitz. The Banjica concentration camp was closed at the end of September 1944, a month before the withdrawal of the Germans from Belgrade. Its commander, Willy Friedrich, was tried by a Yugoslav military court in Belgrade on 27 March 1947 and was sentenced to death.
List of notable prisoners 
- Tina Morpurgo, Croatian painter from Split.
See also 
- Tomasevich 1975, p. 748.
- Ramet 2006, p. 131.
- Cohen 1996, p. 48.
- Israeli 2013, p. 32.
- Horowitz 2012, p. 31.
- Cohen 1996, p. 49.
- Horowitz 2012, p. 31-32.
- Cohen 1996, p. 48-49.
- Weiner & Ôfer 1996, p. 171.
- Gutman 1990, p. 1342.
- Israeli 2013, p. 32-33.
- Israeli 2013, p. 33.
- Noteworthy War Criminals Second World War-Europe. Commandants of Concentration Camps and Concentration Camp Trials. UNWCC
- Cohen, Philip J. (1996). Serbia's Secret War: Propaganda and the Deceit of History. College Station: Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 978-0-89096-760-7.
- Gutman, Israel (1990). Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Volume IV. Macmillan Publishing Company.
- Horowitz, Sara R. (2012). Lessons and Legacies X: Reexamining Perpetrators, Victims, and Bystanders. Northwestern University Press. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
- Israeli, Raphael (2013). The Death Camps of Croatia: Visions and Revisions, 1941-1945. Transaction Publishers. Retrieved 18 April 2013.
- Ramet, Sabrina P. (2006). The Three Yugoslavias: State-Building And Legitimation, 1918-2005. Indiana University Press. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
- Tomasevich, Jozo (1975). War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: The Chetniks. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-0857-9.
- Weiner, Ôfer, Hana, Dāliyyā (1996). Dead-End Journey: The Tragic Story of the Kladovo-Šabac Group. University Press of America. Retrieved 11 May 2013.