Sajmište


Sajmiste lay at what was at the outbreak of war a rather dilapidated marketplace next to the Sava river southwest of Belgrade. The river formed the border between the independent state of Croatia and the German-occupied Serbia. Therefore, the Germans were officially obliged to request permission from Croatia to set up a camp in the Croatian area. The German-friendly Ustasa regime in Croatia had no objection to this because they had common enemies. The camp was established in December 1941 to house Serbian antinazists, communists, gypsies and jews.

During the summer and autumn of 1941, Serbian Jewish men had been murdered by units within the Wehrmacht and not by the Nazi Einsatzgruppen. Wilhelm Keitel had, after the occupation of Yugoslavia, issued an order whereby for every German soldier murdered by what the germans called partisans, 100 Serbian men were executed. Wehrmacht, however, refused to execute women and children, and that is why in December 1941 there were hardly any Serbian Jewish men left alive. Serbian Jewish women and children still alive were imprisoned in Sajmiste while waiting to be deported to northern Eastern Europe.

In addition to these Jews, the nazis also began to house remaining jews and gypsies in the camp. The conditions thus became even worse than before in the narrow and unheated wooden barracks. This meant that a large part of the prisoners froze or starved to death or died as a result of some illness. In the spring of 1942 the gypsies were moved but the Jews remained. The local nazi authorities regularly complained and appealed to Berlin that the Jews in Sajmiste must be deported to northern eastern Europe as soon as possible. In the absence of cooperation from Berlin, the local Nazis made a request to get a gas wagon so that they could solve the problem of the approximately 7,500 Jews who were in Sajmiste. The request was approved and in March 1942 a gas wagon arrived.

Between March and May 1942, the remaining 6,300 Jews were murdered by carbon monoxide poisoning and buried in Jajinci south of Belgrade. However, the camp continued to exist until it was dismantled in the autumn of 1944, during which time partisans and communists were housed. It is difficult to estimate the number of deaths but about 40,000 Serbs and about 7,000 –,8,000 Jews died in Sajmiste.

Current status: Demolished with monument (2009).

Location: 44° 48' 46" N, 20° 26' 42" E

Get there: Walk from central Belgrade.

My comment:

In the spring of 1942, the head of the SS and the Gestapo in Serbia declared the SS-Oberführer Emanuel Schaefer Belgrade as the first major city in Nazi Europe as Jewish-free (Judenfrei). The majority of Serbian Jews died in Sajmiste, but there is nothing to mention that it was there that the Serbian jews met their Auschwitz. There is no detailed documentation of what may be left of the camp. I’m not sure what might be left of the camp, but probably very little or nothing at all. 

Follow up in books: Gilbert, Martin: The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War (1987).