Sajmište concentration camp

Sajmište concentration camp

The Sajmište concentration camp was a Nazi German concentration camp, located on the outskirts of Belgrade. It was formed in December 1941 and shut down in September 1944. [The Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry, 1932-1945 by Yahil, Leny translated by Ina R. Friedman, Haya Galai Oxford University Press US 1990 ] In the beginning, it was almost exclusively meant for Serbian Jews [National Socialist Extermination Policies: Contemporary German Perspectives and Controversies by Ulrich C. Herbert Berghahn Books 2000 page 178
Even as the murder of male Jews was underway in the fall 1941, the military administration chief, SS-Gruppenfuehrer Harald Turner, enacted the first measures for interning Jewish women and children in the Sajmište concentration camp near Belgrade: "Preliminary work for Jewish ghetto in Belgrade completed. Following the liquidation of the remaining male Jews, already ordered by the commander in Serbia, the ghetto will contain approximately 10,000 Jewish women and children".
] , and subsequently for Serbian Roma and political prisoners. The majority of Serbian Jews were killed in the Sajmište camp.

The Camp

The camp was formed on the left bank of the Sava, near the railway bridge at the entrance into Belgrade where the pre-war trade fairground ("sajmište") was located. This territory which was, at that time, deserted, uninhabited and marshy, was several kilometers from Zemun and formed a part of NDH (Independent State of Croatia) territory, so the Germans asked for it to be given to them. [ [ The Trial of Adolf Eichmann: Session 46]
Q. Can you tell us something about the fate of the Jews in Serbia during these months?
A. Several days after the Germans occupied Serbia, we received confidential information through refugees - German Jews who lived as refugees and who wanted to leave again and escape via Croatia to Italy - that anti-Jewish measures and mass arrests had begun. Thus we learned about the establishment of transit camps for arrested Jews in Banice, Topovske Supe, Jabuka, etc. Some months later the large concentration camp Sajmiste was set up near Belgrade. About 90,000 persons, including 7,000-8,000 Jews, were detained there - and in the course of time starved to death - were killed or sent to the East, among them my sister and her two children.

Most of the inmates were Serbian opponents of the occupation, as well as Serbian Romani people. [War Of Extermination: The German Military In World War II by Hannes Heer, Klaus Naumann Berghahn Books 2004 page 49:
And yet Wermacht had justified even the interning of women and children with absurd military pretext. Counterintelligence (IC/AO) in Saloniki justified dragging women and children into the Sajmište concentration camp by insisting: "All Jews and Gypsies are being transferred to a concentration camp near Semlin... They are clearly informants for the rebels"
] The number of inmates is estimated at 100 000.cite web|url=|title=Istorijat|publisher=Municipality of New Belgrade|language=Serbian|accessdate=2007-09-06] At least 40 000 Serbian and 7–8 000 Jewish victims perished in it. [cite web|url=|title=Sajmiste|publisher=Shoah Resource Center, The International School for Holocaust Studies|]

The concentration camp administration had approximately 500 Jewish men who were exempted from shooting. They administered the camp in so-called "self-administration" and were responsible for distributing food, dividing up labor, and organizing a Jewish guard force which patrolled along the barbed wire fence inside the camp. The camp commandant since January 1942 was SS Untersturmführer Herbert Androfer. The camp's exterior was guarded by 25 men of German Reserve Police Batalion 64. [National Socialist Extermination Policies: Contemporary German Perspectives and Controversies by Ulrich C. Herbert Berghahn Books 2000 page 179]

Supplies were provided by the "Department of Social Care and Social Institutions of Belgrade’s Municipal Authorities". At the beginning of December 1941, German authorities called upon Jews in Belgrade to report to the Sicherheitspolizei and to hand over their house keys. From December 8th until 12th, Germans took them to Sajmište. Conditions in the camp were extremely difficult - the damp and the cold, hunger and epidemics.As camp inmates starved and froze to death, Jewish men (the number is unknown) were led away to be shot by German firing squads in Belgrade. They were killed in the same manner, in the same place and by the same people as were the Banjica camp prisoners. After all men were shot, 6,280 women and children were killed in a special gas truck on their way to Belgrade and buried in Jajinci.

The "Encyclopedia of the Holocaust" states:

"Mass murders of Jews took place in Jajinci, Jabuka, Zasavica (near Šabac), and Bubanj (near Niš). By December, most of the Jewish men had been killed; the rest - a group from Niš, and several hundred men had been put to work in the Sajmište camp, near Belgrade, were murdered in February and March 1942, respectively."

"December 1941 to May 1942. A meeting was held in Belgrade on October 20, 1941, attended by Turner, security police chief Wilhelm Fuchs, Frantz Rademacher of the German Foreign Ministry (where he was in charge of Jewish affairs), and Frantz Stuschke and SS-Obersturmbannführer Friedrich Suhr, two of Adolf Eichmann's men. At the meeting it was decided that for the time being the Jews were to be concentrated in one camp, since it was not possible to deport them to the east before the summer of 1942. Accordingly, between December 1941 and February 1942, all the Jewish women and children in Serbia - seventy-five hundred to eight thousand persons - were taken to the Sajmište camp. Conditions in the camp were very bad: the living accommodations did not shelter the inmates from the weather, sanitation was nonexistent (there was a single shower for all the prisoners, and very few toilets), and the food was bad. As a result, the mortality rate soared." [ Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Macmillan Publishing CompanyNew York 1990]

The same source says further:

"In the early spring of 1942 the German authorities in Serbia realized that they would not be able to deport the Jews as quickly as they had thought, and they asked Berlin to provide another solution. In late February a gas van (see gas vans) arrived in Belgrade, sent from Berlin, of the kind that had by then been tried out in Poland and in the Soviet Union. This gas van was used from March to May 1942 to kill all the Jews imprisoned in Sajmište."

"After that only a few Jews were left in Serbia. Most of them had been given refuge by Serbian friends or had escaped to the partisans. 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 Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police) men and German military police, as well as 100 Jewish and Serbian prisoners, was engaged in the gruesome task of obliterating the traces of the murders up to the fall of 1944."

"Approximately 14,500 Serbian Jews - 90 percent of Serbia's Jewish population of 16,000 - were murdered in World War II."


In 1944, Sajmište was hit by U.S. bombers in raids, which killed 80 people at the camp and injured 170. The bombers' intended target was the nearby railway station.

As of 2006, Sajmište is still not a memorial center. Camp Sajmište is not listed among the names of the 22 largest camps for Jews in Europe in the Memorial Center Yad Vashem in the Hall of Memoirs in Jerusalem. [ [ Yad Vashem Web Site - About Yad Vashem ] ] Of all the camps in the former Yugoslavia, Jasenovac is the only name listed. The location is proclaimed a "Cultural Heritage of city of Belgrade" in 1987, and the monument was elected on April 21 1995. Initiative to create a memorial center was initiated in April 2006.Fact|date=September 2007


* "Encyclopaedia Judaica" edited by Cecil Roth, Geoffrey Wigoder, Raphaël Posner, Louis I. Rabinowitz Keter Publishing House 1978
* "The Second World War: A Complete History" by Sir Martin Gilbert Owl Books 2004
* "The Crimes of the Fascist Occupants and Their Collaborators Against Jews in Yugoslavia" by Savez jevrejskih opština Jugoslavije, Zdenko Löwenthal 1957 Federation of Jewish Communities of the Federative People's Republic of Yugoslavia 1957
*"Briha: Flight to the Homeland" by Efrayim Dekkel Herzl Press 1973
* "The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust" by Shmuel Spector, Geoffrey Wigoder Contributor Elie Wiesel NYU Press 2001


External links

* [ In Belgrade, man wants memorial to a ‘forgotten concentration camp’]

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