Mamula Island in the Adriatic Sea is a 19th century fort used by fascist Italian forces in World War II as a concentration camp, but may now have a face-lift to become a luxurious resort hotel.
Nestled in the Adriatic Sea in the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro, Mamula Island is said to have seen thousands of inmates during World War II. Many of those inmates died in horrific circumstances during their incarceration there.
Now, as reported by the New York Daily News, the Swiss-Egyptian company Orascom is planning to invest some 15 million euros ($16 million) into that same island to renovate the fort and construct a top class hotel with spa and marina jetty. The government of Montenegro has reportedly granted the company a 49-year lease on the island, causing much controversy.
An artistic representation of the proposed hotel is included here.
Relatives of former prisoners in the notorious concentration camp are angry about the decision, saying the move is inappropriate, especially given the island’s dark past.
Former prisoners and relatives of those who died on the island are coming together to oppose the project with one campaigner, Olivera Doklestic saying, “To build a luxury hotel dedicated to entertainment at this place where so many people perished and suffered is a blatant example of lack of seriousness towards history.”
Doklestic, 54, explained that her grandfather, father and uncle were imprisoned at the Mamula Fortress on the island and she said yes, the fortress should be renovated, but opened to visitors as a historic site, not a hotel.
“No concentration camp in the world has been transformed into a hotel.”
Balkan Insight tells the story of another resident in the area, where Jovanka Uljarevic recalled how her grandmother, despite living her entire life on the seashore, could not stand the sea, due to trauma she experienced in the Mamula Fort concentration camp.
Her grandmother, Ljubia Uljarevic, was just 12 when Mussolini’s forces killed her father and imprisoned her, her sister and her mother on the island in the spring of 1942. Ljubia told her granddaughter of the horrors she and her family members experienced in the concentration camp.
Reportedly Ljubia was finally released to make room for more male prisoners, but she never forgot her horrific experience there.
However, Montenegro apparently doesn’t have many options when it comes to the notorious island. Olivera Brajovic, head of the National Directorate for Tourism Development in Montenegro told AFP(and quoted by Iafrica) they are facing only two options.
“We were facing two options: to leave the site to fall into ruin or find investors who would be willing to restore it and make it accessible to visitors.”
Brajovic went on to say there would, however, be a memorial room to the former inmates in the building.
Tourism Minister Branimir Gvozdenovic assured local MPs the hotel project will ensure the fortress retains its historical character with “all elements related to the conservation requirements.”
The local war veterans’ association in Montenegro says Mamula Fortress saw more than 2,000 prisoners during its usage in World War II, with 80 executed and another 50 or more dying from hunger in the grim and harsh conditions of the concentration camp.
However reportedly the war veterans’ association has given its approval for the project, as it includes plans to conserve the fortress building, according to PR agency Magna, representing Orascom. Orascom already has an existing project in Luštica Peninsula of Montenegro.
According to Salt & Water, the Serbian studio involved in the design of the resort, it is “of the utmost importance to keep the original structure of the fortress intact” because Mamula is of “great historical value”.
Salt and Water reportedly continued by saying the biggest challenge was to design a completely new and “somewhat extravagant” hospitality environment in an already existing building, while preserving the unique façade of the fortress.
Montenegro is reportedly ranked third in the world for its tourism industry’s long-term growth projections, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.
A series of photos of the proposed luxury hotel can be viewed on the Mamula Island website.
While the idea of renovating the Mamula Island concentration camp into a luxurious hotel and spa resort might sound like a good idea, seeing the fortress in its original state is somewhat ominous and depressing, as can be seen in the video included below.
Tell us readers, would you be happy to vacation in a place that has seen so much suffering in the past? Please comment below.