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This website is linked to a British Academy funded research project on the post-World War Two memorialisation of one of the main sites of the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Serbia, the Semlin Judenlager. Established by Nazi Germany in December 1941 on the outskirts of Belgrade, Semlin (also known by its Serbian name Sajmište) was one of the first concentration camps in Europe, created specifically for the internment of Jews. Between March and May 1942, approximately 7,000 Jewish women, children and the elderly (almost half of the total Jewish population of Nazi-occupied Serbia) were systematically murdered there by the use of a mobile gas van. After the Jewish interns were killed, Semlin was turned into an Anhaltelager, a temporary detention camp for political prisoners, captured Partisans and forced labourers, most of whom were subsequently transported to various labour camps in Germany. Between May 1942 and July 1944, 32,000 inmates (mainly Serbs) passed through the camp, of which 10,600 were killed or died of starvation, exposure, or disease. Semlin was the largest concentration camp in Nazi occupied Serbia.
In spite of its importance as a place of the Holocaust, the Semlin Judenlager played a marginal place in the memorialisation of the destruction of Serbian Jewry in post-war Yugoslav/Serbian society. The research project seeks to explain why this is the case by looking at the representations of the camp in Yugoslav/Serbian historiography of the Second World War, in the media and at commemorative ceremonies between 1945 and the present. It explores the nexus of ideological and institutional dynamics implicated in remembering the Holocaust in Serbia, and specifically the manner in which the memory of the destruction of the Jews was assimilated within the dominant symbolic orders, first within multi-ethnic Yugoslavia - where the heroism of the Partisans, rather than the victimisation of the civilian population, constituted the primary object of memory - and later within the post-Yugoslav ideological milieu, which was dominated by Serbian nationalism and preoccupied with the suffering of Serbs under the Ustasha regime in Croatia during the Second World War.
In exploring the creation, maintenance and transformation of the memory of the Semlin camp since 1945, the project also considers a number of broader issues relevant to the understanding of Holocaust memorialisation in Eastern Europe, including the dynamic relationship between the historiography of the Holocaust and its place in public remembrance, and the continuities and discontinuities between the Communist and post-Communist periods in the way in which the destruction of Jews is understood and remembered.
At present, the website contains a brief history of the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Serbia, a history of the Semlin camp between 1941 and 1944, and an insight into the life at the Semlin Judenlager through the letters of a nineteen year old inmate, Hilda Dajč, which are made available for the first time in the English language. Also, it contains an account of the post-war fate of the site of the Semlin camp, which outlines the various attempts over the years to commemorate the victims. Finally, the site offers a 'virtual tour' of the main sites in Belgrade relevant to the history of the Holocaust.