Call us crazy, but there’s something that just doesn’t sit right with us about a concentration camp being turned into a luxury hotel. Especially when that place, under fascist leader Benito Mussolini’s rule, once starved and tortured 2,300 people, resulting in 130 deaths. Situated between Croatia and Montenegro, the island of Mamula was once the grim home of Italian troops and prisoners during World War II.
In an effort to transform the fortress and boost Montenegro’s economy, the Montenegrin government green-lit a project to turn the bastion into a resort. Swiss-Egyptian developer Orascom was granted a 49-year lease at $1.64 per square meter. The company plans to invest $16.3 million in the project which will include a yacht marina, spa, swimming pools, a nightclub and restaurants.
If this makes you uncomfortable or upset, you’re not alone. Members of the camp’s wartime prisoners have been angered by the government’s decision to move forward with the project. According to CNN, Olivera Brajovic, head of Montenegro's national directorate for tourism development stated, "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."
Many believe that, if anything, the site should be memorialized as a museum, offering travelers a chance to learn about what went on at the fortress with the help of educational tours. The government’s response? “It will have a memorial room or a museum,” stated Tourism Minister Branimir Gvozdenovic at a parliamentary committee hearing last week. Hmmm, thanks for the bone?
Photo Credit: MamulaIsland.com
Supporters are quick to point out that “the fort’s condition is deteriorating and needs funding for restoration works.” They feel the government has a right to acquire foreign investment on the abandoned fort. Dragana Becirovic, director of Magna, the PR agency representing Orascom told CNN that the project “will boost tourism, renovate the island and preserve its cultural heritage and historical character.” What remains to be seen is how this will all work together and if it will be enough to relieve the concerns of family members whose relatives were imprisoned in the camp.
What are your thoughts? Should the government preserve this piece of its history and memorialize the fortress? Or should they move toward the future by welcoming new life into the war-torn destination? And, could you sleep at night knowing what went on there less than a century ago?