The World's Wealthy Can Soon Enjoy the Luxuries of Concentration Camp Life — Seriously

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The tiny seaside nation of Montenegro is drawing outrage for leasing out an island, once used as a fascist concentration camp, to a private developer who plans to turn the site into a luxury hotel.

The government of Montenegro has signed a 49-year lease with Swiss-Egyptian company Orascom to commit $16 million in funds toward the development of a castle on Mamula. The islet in the Adriatic Sea's Bay of Kotor will soon house a four- or five-star luxury hotel for wealthy tourists, reports Agence France-Presse.

The happenings at Mamula fortress earned the island a grim reputation — as CNN notes, the 1959 movie Campo Mamula was set on the historical site.

According to Ansa Mediterranean, during World War II Italian fascist forces serving dictator Benito Mussolini used the island's citadel as a prison that held 2,300 people from 1942 to 1943. At least 130 of those prisoners were murdered or starved to death.

Today, the fortress stands somewhat preserved, though Montenegro's chief of the national directorate for tourism development, Olivera Brajovic, told AFP the only option to preserve the site over the long term would be to lease the island out to a third party. 

And if that third party is a luxury resort developer, so be it.

A techno-playing website for the new development lists the amenities planned for Mamula. Among them are a marina, beach club, spa, restaurants, hotel rooms and V.I.P. suites. And, of course, a DJ and a dance floor. The website boats of the future resort's "party ambiance."

According to Ansa Mediterranean, there seems to be no mention of a promised memorial room for the prisoners held at the citadel during the war.

It also features before-and-after sliders demonstrating the literal erasure of the old island to visitors.

Relatives of survivors of Mamula are not happy. Olivera Doklestic, whose grandfather, father and uncle were locked up in the fortress, told AFP the project was "a blatant example of lack of seriousness towards history."

Design firm Salt and Water, responsible for the fort's renovation, emailed the Guardian a statement defending the redevelopment as preserving the old fortress's original structure and facade. Local radio station director Dragana Ze?evi? Plavanski told Balkan Insight, "It would be terrible to waste such an opportunity offered by a serious company like Orascom after years of total neglect. Mamula keeps degrading due to lack of funds."

However, local art history professor Lazar Seferovic was more critical, telling Balkan Insight locals were "actually lucky that [another] project to turn Mamula into a casino with a skyscraper on the top failed due to lack of resources."

A casino skyscraper? Touché. 

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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