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MEMORIAL COMPLEX BUBANJ, City of Nis, Serbia

MEMORIAL COMPLEX BUBANJ, City of Nis, Serbia

Memorial complex BUBANJ is located in the outskirts of the city of Nis and commemorates the killing of more than 10 000 inhabitants of Nis and atrocities committed by German Nazis at Bubanj, a hill nearby Niš. The memorial complex composed of three 20 meters high concrete pillars, large paved plateau, and a 23 m long carved marble relief was designed by Croatian sculptor Ivan Sabolic (1921 – 1986) and officially inaugurated in 1963. The most distinctive monument’s features are the three pillars dominating the surrounding park area with the fists on top of each of them and of different size symbolizing a fist of man, woman and child defying the enemy because, among other things, entire families were shot at Bubanj hillside in the WW2 (1942-1944). According to witnesses’ testimonies, an unknown prisoner who was about to be executed raised the fists in defiance in the face of the German soldier in the execution squad, and this was exactly the motive of a raised fist that served as an inspiration for the three pillars as the main architectural design.  

This Memorial Complex commemorates also an immense suffering of communists, partisans, Serbs, Roma and Jews during the German occupation of Nis and Serbia (1941-1944). The Red Cross concentration camp was one of the German concentration camps on the territory of Serbia. It was founded in 1941, first as a temporary camp for prisoners of war of the Yugoslav Royal Army, and later for the Serbian, Roma and Jewish population many of whom were women and children. According to estimations, more than 30,000 people were detained in this concentration camp, while more than 10,000 of them were killed at Bubanj hill. Today, it is a Museum complex, and visitors can see solitary confinement, rooms where groups of prisoners stayed, their shocking messages on the walls, as well as personal items such as documents, letters and photographs.

The history of this concentration camp includes tragic stories of the mass exodus of inmates, on February 12, 1942, which was recorded as the first major escape from a Nazi camp in occupied Europe. On that day, 105 bare-handed detainees attacked the guards and managed to break through the barbed wire fence and escape, while forty-two were killed during the escape. This was the first organized escape from a Nazi camp in enslaved Europe, and in retaliation the mass shootings followed.

Memorial park Bubanj and Memorial complex "12th February" together form a unique narrative of people’s suffering, anti-fascist movement and fight for freedom. They provide unforgettable emotional and valuable learning experience and are mandatory stops for anyone visiting this part of Serbia. As the part of culture of remembrance the film 'Lager Niš' was created by Serbian director Miomir Stamenković as the only Yugoslav film on concentration camp prisoners during World War II.

During the Yugoslav-era, this was an important site for holding commemorative events honoring the victims who perished at this site and recognized as a cultural landmark across Yugoslavia. In addition, the site was visited by many thousands of people a year from all over Yugoslavia, especially by children of the Young Pioneers political youth group, who would gather in the amphitheatre in large groups to listen to lectures about the site's history and revolutionary ideals. The events of what occurred at the Red Cross camp and the subsequent executions were so significant to Yugoslav society that in 1987 a WWII film titled 'Lager Niš' ('Лагер Ниш') (titled 'The Escape' for foreign markets) (Photo 6), was created by Serbian director Miomir Stamenković (Миомир Стаменковић). The film depicted the events of the original escape attempt of 105 prisoners from the camp on February 12th, 1942. This was the only Yugoslav film to ever made to specifically focus on the stories of concentration camp prisoners during World War II. 

Although gloomy because of its historic legacy, this memorial park is still a popular place to go among citizens of Nis, because of its unique ambience, landscape and greenery, the monumental pillars rising up to the sky, amphitheater where cultural and recreational programmes are organized. In 2004, a modern looking chapel made of glass and metal, the work of architect Aleksandar Buđevac from Niš, was added to the memorial complex.

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