Despite the relatively quickly quashed resistance that the Yugoslav army had put up in the April 1941 war, the rebel spirit of the anti-fascists in the occupied territory of the
former Kingdom of Yugoslavia did not break. The idea of establishing a concentration camp for the perpetrators and potential instigators of subversive activities against the German
administration came to light in May 1941, but the actual fulfillment of that intent was accelerated by the German attack on the Soviet Union.
In early July 1941, representatives of the German administration in Serbia and the
Gestapo made the decision to establish a concentration camp in Belgrade, while the Belgrade
City Administrator, Dragomir Dragi Jovanović, was in charge of its implementation. It was
the second camp in occupied Serbia after the establishment of the Svilara camp in Pančevo.
The building of the former prison for communists at Ada Ciganlija was initially thought of as
a potential location for the concentration camp in Belgrade, but the decision was made to use
the existing barracks of the 18th Infantry Regiment at Banjica for these purposes. The
Banjica camp (the Dedinje Reception Camp, that is, the Belgrade Concentration Camp are
the names appearing in the original documents) was run by representatives of the Gestapo
and the Serbian police. The camp warden was a representative of the Serbian police, Svetozar
M. Vujković, but despite certain powers that were in the hands of the local administration
and the Belgrade Special Police, the main orders came from the German Gestapo.
The process of adapting the former barracks to the needs of the newly formed camp,
ensuring its safety by adding metal bars and iron doors, went hand in hand with bringing the
first prisoners into this three-story building. The prisoners from the Banjica camp were
further interned in camps outside the Serbian territory, taken to forced labor, executed, or
released after a certain period of detention. Among the prisoners were members of different
nationalities, different political backgrounds, ages and occupations, who, according to the
established classification of 1942, were disaggregated by category of their offence and their
treatment in the camp was defined accordingly. Political prisoners, including supporters and
members of the National Liberation Movement, the Ravna Gora Movement, intellectuals and
patriots, were the most numerous detainees in the Banjica camp. In addition, the prisoners
included peasants who failed to fulfill their obligations to the occupier, hostages, as well as
Jews and Roma. Hundreds of Jews from the Yugoslav territory and Jewish refugees from
different parts of Europe passed through the Banjica camp. The brutal retaliation measures
proclaimed by the occupying authorities in October 1941 made the Banjica camp the main
concentration point for large groups of hostages who were being taken to mass shootings.
The Communists and the Jews were the most numerous among them. The registration of the
Jewish population, the implementation of discriminatory measures, the seizure of property,
the prohibition of free movement and forced labor, which marked the first half of 1941, were
followed by internment in the camps and mass liquidation of Jews. In late 1941 and early
1942, the process of systematic destruction of the Jewish population on the territory of the
German occupation zone was largely underway. The Jews who were subsequently at liberty
were those who disobeyed the German orders, obtained false documents or were in hiding.
The German, but also the Belgrade Special Police were actively searching for them, and,
following arrest, a prisoner would be taken to the Banjica camp.
A large number of prisoners of the camp at Banjica were taken to shootings in Jajinci,
Jabuka, Trostruki Surduk in the Bežanija quarter, Mali Požarevac, Mladenovac, Marinkova
Bara and at the New Belgrade Cemetery, or were killed in gas vans that were used in the
camp at Staro Sajmište (the Old Fairground). More recent estimates show that nearly 30,000
prisoners passed through the Banjica camp, while the post-war State Commission for the
Investigation of the Crimes of the Occupiers and their Collaborators established the number
of 8,756 inmates killed by the time the camp was liquidated in 1944. In addition to the
Military Academy, which is now situated in the Banjica camp building, since 1969, one part
of this building has been used as the Museum of the Banjica camp. It testifies to the layout of
the authentic camp space and provides an insight into the harsh living conditions in it.
References: Sima Begović, Logor Banjica 1941–1944 (The Banjica Camp), 1–2,
Belgrade 1989; Logor Banjica: Logoraši, knjige zatočenika Koncentracionog logora
Beograd-Banjica 1941–1944 (The Banjica Camp: the Inmates, Records of the Inmates of the
Belgrade-Banjica Concentration Camp). I–II, (Evica Micković and Milena Radojčić ed.),
Belgrade 2009, Branislav Božović, Stradanje Jevreja u okupiranom Beogradu 1941–1944
(The Suffering of Jews in the Occupied Belgrade1941-1944), Beograd 2012, Mesta stradanja
i antifašističke borbe u Beogradu 1941–1944 (Places of Suffering and Antifascist Struggle in
Belgrade 1941-1944, (Rena Rädle and Milovan Pisarri, ed.), Belgrade 2013. Photograph
source: Jewish History Museum, c. 24-1-1/1.