After the end of World War II, many of Europe’s former concentration camps have remained as solemn memorials to those who died within.
However, one concentration camp may be transformed into a luxury beach resort, which has created an international outrage.
The uninhabited rocky Adriatic island of Mamula, which is only 200 meters in diameter, is barely visible on a map. It is situated on the bay of Kotor, on the border between Montenegro and Croatia, and dominated by a 19th century fortress.
During World War II, Mamula was used as a concentration camp by occupying Italian troops who were serving under the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. It is alleged that 2,300 people were imprisoned on the island and 130 of those prisoners were killed or starved to death.
The island’s reputation served as an inspiration for the 1950s movie “Mamula Camp.”
Yet its horrid past is in stark contrast to what is planned for the island’s future.
The Montenegrin government has given the go-ahead for a project to transform Mamula into a resort with swimming pools, a yacht marina, a spa, restaurants, and a dance floor. The Montenegrin government also awarded a 49-year lease to Swiss-Egyptian developer Orascom at the trifling amount of $1.64 per square meter.
Orascom says that it will invest $16.3 million in the project.
“We were facing two options: to leave the site to fall into ruin or find investors who would be willing to restore it and make it accessible to visitors,” Olivera Brajovic, head of Montenegro’s national directorate for tourism development, told AFP.
Salt & Water, the firm behind the design, wrote on its website that the concept was meant for preserving “one of the most impressive architecture landmarks of Montenegro.”
Among those who are outraged at the idea of the concentration camp becoming a luxury resort are the family members of the concentration camp’s World War II prisoners.
“To build a luxury hotel dedicated to entertainment at this place where so many people perished and suffered is a blatant example of lack of seriousness towards history,” Olivera Doklestic told AFP.
Doklestic’s grandfather, father, and uncle were all imprisoned at Mamula.
“No concentration camp in the world has been transformed into a hotel,” she said.
The news website Balkan Inside reported that the Montenegrin government defended its decision by claiming that the project will boost the local economy.
The Montenegrin government said that Mamula’s history would be remembered, as the plan includes a “memorial room or museum.”
The controversy over Mamula started back in December 2013, when the Montenegrin government advertised the island as an investment opportunity that would be perfect “to satisfy the needs and demands of a wealthy clientele.”
Former United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali also had previously criticized the plan.