Before the start of World War II, the Bor mine, as one of the largest copper deposits in Europe, was operated by French joint stock companies. Ambitious goals related to the economy and primarily the needs of the military industry in times of war made the Bor mine a particularly important facility in German plans. Following the occupation of Yugoslavia in the wake of the 1941 April war, Germany established a military administration in the territories of vital economic and strategic importance which also comprised the location of the Bor mine.
One of the first goals, defined after the German occupation, was the revitalization of the
demolished facilities of the Bor mine, followed by a maximum increase in its productivity, which
required large contingents of labor force. Former workers were the first to be called to work in
the mine, then experts returning from captivity, but also Serbs engaged in compulsory labor run
by the National Reconstruction Service of Serbia under the Nedić government. As of 1942,
additional labor force was provided through forced labor which was imposed on political
opponents, prisoners of war from Greece, Italy, Poland, as well as Jews. The intensity of the
military interventions during 1943 caused the engagement of the German allies with the aim of
increasing the number of workers in the Bor mine. Thus, the same year, an agreement was
concluded with Hungary, according to which about 6,000 Jews from Hungary and its occupation
zones were sent for forced labor, including about 600 Jews from Bačka.
The mining basin, relative to its importance, was under the strict supervision of police,
military, intelligence services, as well as the semi-military organization called Todt, which was
also in charge of building the new infrastructure. Due to the need for new labor force, a large
complex of 33 camps was built in the wider area around Bor, bearing the names of the cities in
the Third Reich. As the categories of workers were different, the appearance of the camps, the
regime and the living conditions in them varied accordingly. The position of Jews, as a
discriminated group, was particularly difficult, as were the conditions under which they lived in
the Bor mine complex. Some were housed in the Berlin camp, while the rest were classified in
the other camps, including Munich, Innsbruck, Bergenz, Westfalen and Foralberg. While in
camp, the Jews also had to wear a yellow ribbon and the Star of David sewn onto their clothes.
Hundreds of workers lived in the small barracks without the possibility of maintaining hygiene.
The nutrition was poor and the inmates’ scarce clothing was inadequate for them to perform the
otherwise arduous tasks. The Jews’ long hours of work in the mine shafts or on the Bor –
Žagubica railway were always accompanied by torture, which caused a number of workers to die
during forced labor.
The end of the war and the advance of the Red Army in September 1944 caused the
closing of the Bor mine camp. The Jewish inmates, including those from Bačka, divided into two
groups, went on long marches to Hungary and Germany. A large number of prisoners from the
first group died due to exhaustion or were shot on the march, while the march of the second
group was stopped by the partisans.
The memory of the bloody march is preserved thanks to a monument in the center of Bor,
erected in honour of Hungarian poet and the camp inmate Miklós Radnóti. To commemorate the
more than 7,000 victims of forced labor, most of whom were Jews from the Hungarian
occupation zones, there is a now completely abandoned memorial ossuary at the Bor cemetery.
Literature: Tomislav Pajić, Teror okupatora u logorima u Boru 1942–1944 (Terror of the
Occupying Forces in the Camps in Bor), Belgrade 1989, Živko Avramovski, Treći Rajh i Borski
rudnik (The Third Reich and the Bor Mine), Bor 1975, Milovan Pisarri, Sanela Schmid
(ur.), Prinudni rad u Srbiji . Proizvođači, korisnici i posledice prinudnog rada 1941-1944
(Producers, Consumers and Consequences of Forced Labor – Serbia 1941-1944), CIEH,
Belgrade 2018. Photograph source: The Jewish History Museum, The Jewish Community in
Serbia’s Digital Archive Collection.