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Restoration of the Central Tower in Old Belgrade Fairground to a Museum of Holocaust in a memory of all the victims that were killed during the W… Read More
Restoration of the Central Tower in Old Belgrade Fairground to a Museum of Holocaust in a memory of all the victims that were killed during the World War II in this area. Read Less
In 1936, the Belgrade City Council  donated 363,000 m2  of land  on the previously  uninhabited left bank of the River Sava to a group of businessmen, entrepreneurs and investors affiliated to the Association for Organising Trade Fairs  and  Exhibitions. The Association,  established  in the  1920s, undertook  to transform the marshy site  next   to  the  newly  built   King  Alexander  Bridge  into  Belgrade's  first  exhibition  grounds   (Beogradsko sajmište). This  was   the  first   construction  project   on  the  left  bank  of  the  Sava,  heralding  the  westward expansion of the capital of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
In the  spring of 1937,  after  draining  the  first  126,000m2 of marshlands, developers began the first phase of construction, comprising five large pavilions (the so called 'Yugoslav pavilions' 1-5), the central tower, and  four 'foreign pavilions':  Italian,  Hungarian, Rumanian  and Czechoslovakian.  Also constructed  as part  of  the  first phase  was  the  Spasić  pavilion  (funded  by  a  foundation  established  by  the wealthy Serbian entrepreneur Nikola  Spasić,  1838 - 1916)  as well  as a  number  of  smaller  structures  sponsored  by private companies, including the Dutch electronics manufacturer Philips. Most of the building  work  was completed in time  for the first  Belgrade  Fair which  opened  on  11 September 1937. The  second  phase  of  development,  which  was completed  in  1938, involved  the  construction  of  the Turkish  pavilion  and a large  German pavilion. In 1940, work began  on a  new, 6th  Yugoslav  pavilion, but  construction was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War.
Importantly   however,  the  Belgrade   Exhibition  Grounds  was   not  just  about  entertainment,   technological innovation  and  industrial enterprise. It  was  also about  politics. German  and Italian governments used  their national   pavilions   to  promote  the   values  of  the  Nazi  and  Fascist  regimes, respectively.  Nazi  flags  flew prominently in front  of the German pavilion, whose  interior  was similarly  adorned  with swastikas  and  other National  Socialist  insignia.  What's  more,  Germany's  expansion  in  Europe  directly  affected  the look of the Belgrade Exhibition Grounds: in 1939, after the Nazi attack on Czechoslovakia, the name of the Czech  pavilion was officially changed into Pavilion of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Similarly, in the same year Italy acquired permission to build another, larger pavilion, whose size would reflect its growing military and political influence in the region, including on the Yugoslav government.
Nevertheless, few could anticipate at that time that within five years of the opening of the first Belgrade Autumn Fair in 1942,  its pavilions would  become  a  place of The Holocaust, and  the  site  of the  largest German-run concentration camp in South Eastern Europe.
The site of the Exhibition Grounds - separated  from downtown  Belgrade by the River Sava - survived  the  Nazi bombing on 6 April 1941 relatively unscathed. On 23 October 1941, the Nazi authorities decided that instead of building  a  new  camp, they  would  convert the  Belgrade  Exhibition Grounds into  a suitable detention  facility.
On 8 December  1941, all Jews who  registered  with the authorities in Belgrade  were ordered to report to  the offices of the 'Jewish Police'  (Judenreferat) in  George Washington Street.  After  handing over the keys  to their properties,  the  were  taken  through  Belgrade and across the recently  constructed  pontoon  bridge  over  the Sava  to  the  newly established Judenlager  Semlin. By 12 December, there were already over 5,000 interns at the camp, with the figure eventually rising to 7,000.
Almost half  of  the  total number  of  Jews from the territory of Nazi occupied Serbia perished there in less than two  months in  the  spring of 1942,  making Serbia  the first Nazi occupied territory to  be declared 'cleansed of Jews'.
When war was finished, priorities for  reconstruction of destroyed  city were  infrastructure and houses. Roads, railway, bridges,  water  supply, industry, public  administrative  and cultural  capacities, and  most  of  housing were  completely  ruined. Total renewal  had   to  be  done, and  human  resources  were  seriously  damaged: thousands  of  killed  people, refuges and orphans, people  without  homes  and  families  burdened  with  war traumas. It was obvious that problem of monumental complex wasn't first on the list. There was a lot of work to do before: build infrastructure, start industry, rebuild economy.
However, almost nothing was done to conserve the area and today Staro Sajmište is in a very bad shape. Few remaining   old   artists  have  no resources to  renovate  the  complex  themselves  and   the area  became the gathering site for  vagrants and criminals, so the ateliers are often looted. The  population of the neighborhood was 2,250 in 2002.
The old Central tower
Renovated Central tower
The idea  was to  make a  big exibiton  area  on  all levels. Open area  only cut  with glass transparent cubords, where documents, pictures and other pieces from  this period will be shown. On the ground  floor there is also a littlle  souvenier  shop  and  restaurant with  refreshments. Roof  on  the second   floor  is  turned  into a open balcony, with a view of the entire Old Fairground.