BELGRADE – The construction of the Staro Sajmiste memorial complex in Belgrade will begin next year, it has been announced at the constitutive session of the city commission to build the complex on the site of the former concentration camp that existed during the Nazi occupation.

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“Belgrade had four camps – four massacre sites – but, regrettably, it has no memorial that is worthy of the suffering and plight experienced by its residents,” said Serbian Minister of Labour, Veteran and Social Affairs Aleksandar Vulin, who is deputy chairman of the commission.

The Serbian government will take part in the commission’s work because it believes that it is in the interest of the citizens to preserve the memory of the suffering in World War II, and “our anti-fascist past cannot be forgotten and, at the same time, neither can our anti-fascist future,” Vulin told reporters on Wednesday.

“It is not a memorial to Belgrade, but to the suffering of the Serbian, Jewish and Roma peoples. It will be a memorial to universal human suffering, ” Vulin said.

Bishop Jovan Culibrk of the Serbian Orthodox Church, who chairs the commission, told reporters that the body will work on two plans.

The first plan will relate to activities at the Staro Sajmiste tower – formerly the administrative section of the Zemun camp for Jews – and the Nazi transit camp at Staro Sajmiste, as this can be done immediately.

The commission will also prepare a study that the government will use to make the decision on the type of the memorial.

“For large-scale work such as this, international standards should have been consulted, with, perhaps, an international advisory body established to ensure that Sajmiste becomes part of the world’s community of memorials, like Poklonnaya Gora in Moscow, Yad Vashem in Israel and the Dachau memorial,” Bishop Culibrk said.

City Manager Goran Vesic said that the funds required for launching an international competition will be secured and that it will then be seen what the permanent solution for the Staro Sajmiste memorial will be like.

On October 25, the Belgrade City Council, as the mayor’s expert working body, set up the commission to establish the programme concept and propose a model of managing the Staro Sajmiste memorial complex.

The commission is tasked with proposing a model of managing the future memorial centre in keeping with the planned pace of reconstructing the entire memorial area.