Belgrade War Heritage – From WWII to the Yugoslav Wars

Belgrade, the capital city of today’s Serbia, with a population of 1.3 millions, boasts traces of dating back to the Roman Empire. Strategically located on the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers, through the ages it grew to become a major military and trading post.

A city at war – brief historical perspective

In the 19th century, with the foundation of a Kingdom of Serbia free from the Ottoman rule, Belgrade became a capital city of an independent power, right at the geographical center of the Balkan region.

In 1914, tense relations with the better established and more powerful Austrian Empire triggered WWI, where Serbia fought on the side of the winners, gaining territories extending to the Adriatic Sea from the dismembered Austrian empire. These regions were encapsulated in an unprecedented entity, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, where Belgrade played again as capital city.

Soon after, WWII saw a bloody and rather unsung front opening in the Balkans, conquered from the north by Hitler’s Wehrmacht, and from the south by fascist Italy. The Kingdom of Yugoslavia ceased to exist, and Belgrade – initially the target of massive air attacks by Germany – was made for a while the capital of a kind of German protectorate. It was in the final years of WWII that communist-led resistance para-military corps led by Marshal Tito, secretly supported by the Western Allies, started operating massively against the Axis. Tito was backed especially by the British, who provided war materiel, staff for tactical decisions and political support.

When Serbia was liberated, with the help of the Red Army attacking from southern Ukraine through today’s Romania on Serbia’s eastern border, Tito raised to power, re-founding Yugoslavia as a communist country extending from Greece to Austria and Italy, and with borders with Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria – all the latter three being communist countries, deeply entangled with the Soviet Union. Belgrade was again the capital city of a powerful and strategically relevant state.

Quite oddly from Stalin’s perspective, Tito did not capitulate the sovereignty of Yugoslavia to the USSR – unlike most states in Eastern Europe. This again was possible likely through the support of the West, in the quickly evolving geo-political situation soon after WWII leading to the Cold War, where former allies split on the two sides of the Iron Curtain. As a matter of fact, no Soviet military bases were ever placed in Yugoslavia, a communist country which until the Fifties even obtained war material from the West!

Tito managed to keep his post on the international scene and internally until his death in 1980. Soon after, the artificial ties between the many nations united in Yugoslavia began to crack, and almost at the same time of the end of communism in Eastern Europe, the country literally fell apart. As of now the bloodiest conflicts in post-WWII Europe, the Yugoslavian Wars saw the secession of several new national entities from one another and from Serbia. Belgrade is now the capital city of the Republic of Serbia.

War heritage in Belgrade – What is covered in this chapter

The troubled history of Belgrade as a capital city has left permanent traces in the fort, one of the oldest and most prominent highlights in town. The foundations bear traces of the ancient Roman fort, but a defense bunker dug underground within its premises is a witness of the role of this old part of the town in more recent years.

An ideal setting for a weapons display, the fort is also where the museum of military history can be found. Dating from Tito’s era, this place boasts a remarkable collection of war material from all ages, including WWII, the Cold War and the 1990s. It stands as a perfect counterpart for the air museum, covered in this chapter. Further items of interest include one-of-a-kind memorabilia items belonging to Marshal Tito.

Being Tito’s Yugoslavia capital city, it is no surprise the founder of postwar Yugoslavia was buried here. An extremely interesting purpose-built museum – a major relic of the Cold War era – surrounds the mausoleum. There you can find a massive documentation on the dictator, including signed photographs and gifts from prominent western political leaders – including virtually every US President in office during Tito’s many decades in charge! This witnesses the special status of Marshal Tito in the eyes of western powers.

Another characteristic sight is the ‘Genex Tower’, a unique skyscraper of American size, with a style resembling ‘Blade Runner’ motion picture’s set. A real punch in the eye in the landscape, this is tower is of course another witness of how private enterprises – this time, the Yugoslavian tourism group Genex – could get a prominent status in communist Yugoslavia, differently from Soviet-style fully centralized economies. It is also an example of an original architectural style from the Cold War era, showing the great care given to art and architecture by the communist party of Yugoslavia – another prominent example being ‘spomeniks’, monuments scattered over the entire former territory of the country (see this dedicated chapter).

Similarly interesting is ‘Avala Tower’, a TV tower with an elevated panorama platform from the 1960s. Besides the architectural interest, it is worth mentioning this tower was targeted by NATO air raids in 1999, and completely demolished. It was rebuilt in an identical shape and re-opened only recently.

The oddest among war-connected items in town is the former building of the ministry of defense, close to today’s capital directional center. Having being targeted by NATO bombing raids in 1999 and severely damaged, it was left for years damaged and derelict, a memento for the attack by NATO forces, and the focus of much controversy.

Photographs of these sites are from a visit in Spring 2019.

Map

The sites covered in this chapter can be found on the map below.

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Sights

Military Museum of Belgrade

When getting access to the beautiful historical fort of Belgrade, a vantage point to watch the oldest districts and the rivers, you will hardly miss an impressive array of cannons, howitzers, tanks and missile batteries from earlier than Napoleon to the Cold War.

This rich collection is the outside part of the Military Museum of Belgrade. Founded back in Tito’s era, this museums offers an overview of the war history of this war-battered part of the world, since ancient times to the latest Yugoslavian Wars of the 1990s.

The collection features interesting items especially from WWII, including pieces of German make, as well as from the Cold War period, like Soviet-made ‘Katyusha’ launchers and SAM batteries.

Despite the initial struggle with Stalin, after the latter’s death, relations with the USSR improved. Since then, military supply for Yugoslavia mainly came from the USSR, flanked by a non-negligible domestic production.

The indoor collection starts from much back in time, with weapons dating from the centuries of the struggle against the Ottoman rule. A major section is dedicated to the 19th century, when the Kingdom of Serbia was founded. As known, the spark for WWI came from the Balkans. Serbia took part to the war on the side of the Entente. As a result, after WWI the Kingdom of Serbia increased its territory and became known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia since the late 1920s.

Resulting from the political union of peoples of diverse ethnicity, religion, language and commercial vocation, this kingdom never experienced much stability. As a matter of fact, king Alexander I was murdered on a visit to France by Macedonian fighters for independence. The blood stained shirt of the king following the assassination – notably the first such event to be video recorded, albeit in 1934 quality – is preserved in the museum.

Like elsewhere in Europe, WWII years saw the suppression of the existing institutions. In 1941 Yugoslavia was invaded by neighboring Hitler’s Germany (which at that time was a single entity with Austria). The Nazi rule was implemented in the region of today’s Serbia, administrated by a German-backed local government. Items from this era are abundant, and include maps, weaponry and uniforms.

Of special interest are also the double-language notices – in German and Serbian – produced by Nazi Germany, with the distinctive eagle and swastika (similar to what you can find in the occupied territories of the USSR, see for instance here).

Also interesting are the bounty signs about Tito and other ‘comrades’ – the resistance movements were well organized and supplied, with the backing of Western Allies operating from Greece and southern Italy in the latter years of the war, thus creating real troubles to the invading powers.

Despite that, also improvised weapons were used, presented in the museum. Being an installation from Tito’s time, the operations of the communist-led resistance para-military units is showcased with flags, banners, uniforms and weapons.

A true relic in the museum is made of a small collection of Marshal Tito’s own uniforms and everyday items. These include some field items – torchlight, map magnifier – as well as more personal belongings – glasses, a USSR souvenir, apparently a pencil case, and more.

Some interesting photographs include portraits of US staff and aircraft operating from Yugoslavia, as well as a copy of the declaration of support to Tito’s army from the participants to the Tehran conference – Churchill, Stalin and president Roosevelt.

A very Soviet-style part of the museum is a kind of memorial, with a statue of Tito and a myriad of banners from various military groups – a kind of homage – completed by a massive engraved metal map of communist Yugoslavia.

A significant part of the museum deals with the 1990s wars. These include the early secession war mainly opposing Croatia, but deeply involving Bosnia-Herzegovina. Weapons of the Croatian army are on display.

A latter part is devoted to the war with Kosovo, which resulted in an open, mainly air-fought conflict against overwhelming NATO forces. From the fierce and polemical titles of the display cases in this latest part of the museum, it is clear that this fragment of history is still an open wound in the collective memory of Serbia. Maps of NATO bombing incursions have been created, and curiously translated into English, for the eyes of western visitors.

More substantial remains from this relatively recent struggle can be found at the air museum of Belgrade, covered in this post, in the form of wrecks of downed aircraft and western missile bodies.

Visiting

The museum is a major attraction among those scattered over the premises of the fort. Access to the outdoor part, surely deserving a walk-through also for those not particularly interested in history, is free of charge, and may be very appealing for the kids. The indoor collection is extremely interesting for war historians or history-minded people, but the exhibition may be hard for children. Most items are labeled also in English, making the visit interesting. Visiting the inside part may take from .5 to more than 1 hour, depending on your level of interest. A photo permit is required to take pictures inside. Website with info here.

Mystery Bunker in the Fort of Belgrade

This bunker is poorly advertised, and only scarce on-site descriptions are provided. It is basically made of a tunnel built close to a the most panoramic corner of the fortress. Access is via a narrow stair, giving access to a U-shaped corridor, connecting two double-floor underground circular towers.

On the lower floor of the towers, sleeping rooms for troops can be found, together with water tanks. On the upper floor what appears as an unfinished or lately interred firing position for high-caliber artillery can be found.

Construction is similar to some installations of the Atlantic Wall (see for instance here and here), hence it may date from WWII or soon after.

Due to the (strangely) scant description, it is hard to tell the history of this mystery bunker, and I am only guessing its function.

Visiting

The site can be visited with an inexpensive ticket, to be purchased (cash only) by the entrance to the helical pit, a much more advertised attraction nearby. To be honest, nobody checked my ticket once by the entrance to the bunker, which at a first glance can be confused with a backyard deposit (it is really not much celebrated as an attraction). Anyway, I came across a Serbian-speaking small guided group on my visit, so there must be chance of getting inside like that, enjoying some better explanation. Visiting alone may take 15 minutes. A little info on the site of the Fortress, here.

Marshal Tito’s Mausoleum and Memorabilia Museum

This installation lies to the back of the older building of the Museum of Yugoslavia, dating from Tito’s era and currently closed for renovation (2020). The neighborhood is very nice, with buildings of many embassies. The mausoleum and the annexed museum are part of a nice ensemble, surrounded by a garden. A very modern entrance hall with shop and services has been prepared at the entrance.

The burial place of Marshal Tito is in a greenhouse-like building, pretty nice and peaceful. The tomb is definitely plain and not bombastic, nothing you would expect from a dictator. Tito’s wife is buried nearby.

To the sides of the building you can find a well designed exhibition including personal belongings of Tito, parts of his office furniture, as well as pictures – including a magnified one with dignitaries attending his funeral ceremony in 1980.

A small excerpt of the huge collection of scepters, a traditional gift offered to Tito by every group or local society on his domestic visits, can be visioned here. Some of these are really nicely crafted, some are funny – some are really kitschy and caricatural.

A second part of the installation is hosted in a small, separate building. Here an incredible collection of gifts, personal belongings, photographs, authentic papers from the fund of the Museum of History about momentous events in Yugoslavian history, autographs and scepters can be found.

Of special interest are the official portraits – often signed – of presidents, dignitaries, kings and queens from various ages and from all over the world. This collection witnesses the relative popularity of Marshal Tito in the West, even though NATO forces never trusted him fully – the missile defense system placed in northeastern Italy in the 1960s and 1970s is a clear memory of that (see this post).

Similar to Ceausescu’s house in Bucharest (see here), the items on display make for a very vivid memory of Marshal Tito life and actions, and really bring back the man from history. Really an evoking place those interested in the Cold War can’t miss out!

Visiting

This attraction can be easily reached by car, a few minutes from central Belgrade, in a nice and safe neighborhood (see map). The local name is ‘Kuca Cveca’. As a branch of the Museum of Yugoslavia, it is modernly managed and has been recently revamped, making the visit enjoyable and interesting. For those with an interest in the Cold War era or Tito’s life and legacy, a visit to this site may easily take 1-1.5 hours on a self-guided basis, despite the place being relatively small and easy to tour. Guided tours are possible as well, info on the official website (in English) here.

Genex Tower

An internationally known piece of contemporary architecture, this strange looking massive skyscraper can be clearly spotted from the fortressof Belgrade, looking west towards ‘Nikola Tesla’ airport. It was built between 1977 and 1980, and is made of two bodies connected at the top through an elevated platform.

The name Genex Tower comes from the legacy Genex company, a large tour operator from the Yugoslavian era, operating even an independent airline, Aviogenex, flying mainly touristic routes conveying visitors from western Europe to the beautiful coast of Dalmatia. This openness of Yugoslavia to western tourism has been an uncommon characteristic in the panorama of communist-led countries. Overt trade relations with the West contributed to a higher standard of living of Yugoslav population, compared to the USSR-controlled Eastern Bloc neighbors.

The tower is today partly a relic. The half once hosting the offices of Genex and its subsidiaries is mostly empty, even though not abandoned – there is a porter apparently living there, and willing to answer your questions on the history of the place! Going beyond the entry hall is not possible, but the hall itself deserves a glance – built with style, it is much more pleasant than the outside of the building!

The atmosphere is really evocative of the Cold War era. Like other buildings – mainly hotels – in former Yugoslavia, the style of the interior somehow recalls the old-fashioned luxury of some older James Bond movie setting!

The residential part is still inhabited as a high-rise condominium. The entrance is via a small door, but despite the derelict appearance of the small square ahead of the building, it looks normally cared for.

The circular platform on top of the tower used to host a panorama restaurant, today long gone.

The view of the platform from between the two main bodies from the base makes for a peculiar photographic set – as a matter of fact, professional photographers were taking pictures  from that spot for a fashion review!

Visiting

The tower can be reached by car, a few minutes north of the city center. This is basically a non-public building, so while visiting is not possible, the open, unfenced premises at the base of the tower allow walking freely around the tower. The neighborhood is densely populated and safe, despite the base of the tower not looking good, due to disrepair. Parking opportunities all around. A walk around the base may take 15 minutes. If you like to get inside the hall of the largely unused (as of 2020) commercial building, you may also have a chat with the porter about the history of the place. The visit won’t be much longer, anyway.

Avala Tower

This tower is located south of Belgrade, and is a vantage point for observing the town and the countryside around. The original tower was completed between 1961 and 1964, entering the world’s top-ten list of tallest buildings at the height of the Cold War era. That tower was targeted by NATO bombing in 1999 and destroyed. It was rebuilt between 2007 and 2009, mostly identical to the original design.

It is today a renowned tourist attraction. A remarkable engineering and design masterpiece, the tower boasts an uncommon three-leg base, giving a shape well fitting in the years of the space age when it was designed – despite the inspiration being reportedly from a three-legged Serbian traditional chair.

The platform on top can be reached via a fast elevator. Strange massive condominiums in the southern outskirts of Belgrade can be clearly spotted from here, but the most striking feature is the wild countryside surrounding Belgrade, really a spot in the green.

Not far from the tower, the interesting Monument to the Unknown Soldier from the 1930s is a remarkable national shrine from the years of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

Visiting

The Avala Tower can be reached by car in about 45 minutes from central Belgrade – mainly due to traffic, since it is not geographically far (see map). Parking on site. The place is managed as a modern large scale attraction, website here.

The Monument to the Unknown Soldier is open 24/7, a quick and interesting detour from the tower, with a dedicated small parking close to a fashionable ‘old-Europe’ vintage hotel. Explanatory panels nearby.

Ruins of the Ministry of Defense

The building of the ministry of defense was targeted during a bombing raid in April 1999, and severely damaged. An administrative building right in today’s administrative district of downtown Belgrade, it has been left mostly untouched for years now, as a memento of the war against the NATO alliance.

Two buildings can be seen cross the street. Part of the corresponding blocks are still in use, and for safety reasons portions of the damaged buildings have been finally demolished in recent years. More and more plans to convert this very central area to something else have been elaborated, as memory of the troubled 1990s is slowly fading.

Visiting

The place can be reached easily with a walk from the historical and shopping districts of Belgrade (see map). The buildings are inaccessible, and can be seen from the outside. A 5 minutes stop along your walk may suffice to check this item.

Spomenik – Iconic Modern Art from Tito’s Yugoslavia

Soon after the end of the war Tito and the Communist Party of Yugoslavia started a fight against the Soviet Union to escape Stalin’s direct control – a fight where they succeeded, creating in Yugoslavia a unique, truly communist dictatorship totally under Tito’s power, and not just another soviet satellite country.

To make differences from the USSR more apparent, artistic production, often representing an internationally recognized value for a country on the international stage, needed to part from the rhetoric of socialist realism of Stalin’s years. New, original aesthetics were sought, capable of expressing the modernity of Yugoslavia, while being not free from the control of the State, celebrating and promoting unity in a country which had never enjoyed national unity – something later reflected in the bloody split of the 1990s.

Tito’s aesthetic views for the new post-WWII Yugoslavia are greatly reflected in the project for the realization of an array of hundreds of monuments, to be designed and erected in locations scattered over the whole territory of the former Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia. These monuments go under the name of ‘spomenik’ – an internationally known word in the local idiom, simply translating into ‘monument’.

Most of these spomeniks commemorate some bloody facts of the Second World War – most often a local battle between Yugoslav communist partisans and the German Wehrmacht, or the Italian Army of the ‘Duce’, but also clandestine congresses of local subversive communist groups, mass murders by the Axis invaders, and so on. The realization of the project, sometimes fueled by the local interest to keep the memory of a historical fact of regional relevance, but in any case coordinated by the Communist Party, took a long time span, with most of the monuments designed and built over the 1960s and 1970s, before Marshall Tito died (1980).

Besides the historical significance bound to the events they commemorate, two facts make spomeniks an interesting target for curious travelers. The aesthetics of these monuments is often non banal, showing an attention to details and an artistic sensibility which is not usual to communist-ruled countries. In this sense, spomeniks sometimes stand out as very original, interesting – and pretty massive… – works of art. Secondarily, as the events they commemorate often took place in remote areas, spomeniks can be found in incredible natural spots of the former territory of Yugoslavia, immersed in the wilderness or in the middle of a gorgeous natural scenery, not easy to reach and isolated from civilization.

After the end of communism and following the secession wars of the 1990s in the Balcans, many spomeniks fell into disrepair. Today, some of them have been refurbished, while others have been completely demolished, reflecting a mixed feeling of the local population towards this artistic heritage. A good share of them has been simply left behind, gaining the typical ‘ghost aura’ of the architectures of former communist countries.

For hunters of historical relics, spomeniks are double-attractive – not only are they tangible traces of a bygone communist dictatorship with unique traits, but they stand out for their often severe appearance, like traces of a mysterious alien civilization, now long gone.

This chapter presents a handful of these monuments, which you can find along an ideal itinerary connecting the capital cities of todays republics of Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia & Hercegovina and North Macedonia. These are just a very small set out of the total, yet some of them are among the most famous and artistically valuable. Furthermore, except those in North Macedonia, they can be reached without any substantial detour from the major roads connecting Podgorica, Belgrade and Sarajevo, thus making for an interesting ‘side visit’ on your way from one of these nice cities to the next, on a cultural trip to the area. Similarly, many spomeniks in North Macedonia can be found close to touristic locations. Photographs were taken during two visits, a week-long tour in Spring 2019 (Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia & Hercegovina) and a long week-end in late Summer 2019 (North Macedonia).

If you are interested in a deeper analysis on the history and art behind spomeniks, or you are looking for a more complete directory of these monuments, please refer to this great resource site.

Map

The following map shows the detailed location of all the spomeniks listed in this post. I personally checked all of them, so the location is very precise. As you will notice, most of them are fairly easily accessible from major or paved roads. Some of them will require a little bit of walking from a parking area to the monument itself.

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Sights

Kolašin, Montenegro

This spomenik is actually a one-of-a-kind example of ‘spomen-dom’, i.e. a monument not designed just to be admired from the outside, but conceived as a building, to host meetings and services inside. The site is right in the central square of the village of Kolašin, in the southeast of Montenegro not far from the Serbian border. This town has been a vital center of the anti-fascist resistance in WWII, when the territory was first subjugated by the Italians, and later by the Germans.

The spomenik was designed and built under the supervision of the renowned architect Marko Mušič in the early 1970s. Its age is especially reflected in the use of gray concrete for most of the visible structure. The triangular shape dominating the highest part of the building may recall the typical shape of the traditional houses built in the area – chalet-type, with a triangular roof – or even the tops of the Dinaric Alps all around.

Being a building more than a monument, this spomenik is rather big. Today, the village is an active skiing center, thanks to the great position in the mountains. The spomenik is being used for administrative functions, and blends effectively in the central square of the village. Yet its appearance is today so-so, and maintenance is clearly not enough to preserve it for long. As a matter of fact, inspite of the architectural value which gained it a place in books of architecture, a long future for this spomenik is reportedly not assured.

Getting there and moving around

The spomenik is easily reachable right in the city center of Kolasin, a small town with some up-to-date touristic structures for the winter season – the location is really gorgeous. Free parking all around the central square. You can walk around the spomenik without restriction, but stepping inside is possible only compatibly with the local administrative functions.

Berane, Montenegro

Possibly one of the most elaborated spomeniks, the monument in Berane was built on the spot of an ancient Turkish fortress, now totally gone, in a secluded location immersed in a forest close to this contended town. In the close vicinity of the spomenik, nine students suspected of being part of the resistance were executed by the Italians in 1941. The town of Berane changed hands several times during WWII, and it is estimated that about 6’000 people were killed in the area in the military and para-military actions over the war years.

The spomenik, designed by the Serbian designer Bogdan Bogdanović, was inaugurated in 1977 on a small grassy field, a really nice spot in the forest. It is mainly composed of a more than 50 ft tall conical dome, with a number of massive dark stone slabs delimiting a regular curved perimeter around it. These slabs are carved with interesting symbolic ideograms, telling – among other things the story – of a local clan.

Today, despite its relative remoteness with respect to the town center, the place is actively maintained, frequented by the locals, and in a definitely good shape. Thanks to the secluded position, as well as to the inscriptions in a fantastic archaic language, this spomenik is very mysterious and particularly fascinating – it resembles a megalithic alignment, or a setting from the Lord of the Rings!

Getting there and moving around

The spomenik in Berane cannot be approached by car directly. You will need to face a steep climb uphill on a well-prepared and maintained trail. A 10 minutes walk uphill is needed for a well-trained person. The location has been used for local concerts and commemorations, and is carefully maintained as a park area.

Ostra, Serbia

This spomenik was built on the site of a battle which took place between opposing factions of locals – some of them collaborating with the Axis forces – in 1943. This was just an episode in the larger confrontation between these groups, taking place in the area of the nearby center of Cacak. Notably, the soviet Red Army contributed to the struggle in the last stages of the Axis occupation period, obviously on the side of the local communist partisans.

The monument, designed by Miodrag Živković and Svetislav Licina, was inaugurated in 1969, and was composed of a concrete slab with an inscription in Cyrillic, and a perspective leading to the focal point of the spomenik – an abstract aluminum sculpture, with a sober appearance, pointing diagonally towards the sky. By looking closely to this monument, you can see stylized human faces in the side of it. The metal sculpture is located on top of a hill, with a very scenic view of the surrounding hills.

Despite the metal sculpture being today still in a fairly good condition, the original appearance of the site has been heavily altered by the building an Orthodox church between the concrete commemorative stone and the prominent sculpture. This happened around 2010. Strangely enough, at the time of my visit the church was not open, with parts of furniture provisionally stored ahead of the main door, giving a bad sense of neglect.

Clearly, a church built right in the middle of the spomenik area means that there is not a particular good feeling about this monument. Also the inscriptions by the entrance of the perspective are largely spoiled, with many letters now missing. Yet somebody put flowers by the metal sculpture, which is not heavily spoiled by writers.

All in all, despite the bad general shape and the strong alteration, the location dominating the area and the imposing, sober appearance of the aluminum part is particularly suggestive, and makes for good photo opportunities.

Getting there and moving around

Accessing this spomenik is rather easy. The road reaching the top of the hill is a local asphalt road, which does not pose any special difficulty. Close to the church there is a small parking area, and the metal monument can be reached from there walking on a flat, open grassy area.

Kragujevac, Serbia

What you can find in Kragujevac is not just one spomenik, but a huge and very nice city park with several monuments scattered around. Construction of this park was started by an official decree back in the early 1950s, on the site of the major massacre of Kragujevac. This bloody episode is one of the worst suffered by the civilian population in occupied Yugoslavia, when by the order of the Nazi governors, more than 2’300 from the local population – selected based on race, political views or religion – were systematically killed in a field. The general governor of Yugoslavia responsible for issuing the order – which can be traced back to the German OKW in Wünsdorf – was later trialled for this in Nürnberg after WWII.

The park is still today very well-kept, interdicted to road traffic and only open for walking. Several spomeniks can be found scattered over the park, together with a museum dedicated to the massacre close to the main road access. One of them, and likely the oldest, is the monument called ‘Pain and Defiance’, dating from 1959.

The most famous, and one of the most internationally well-known, is dedicated to pupils and teachers killed in the massacre. It was designed by architect Miodrag Živković in a distinctive ‘V’-shape, about 25 ft tall and 45 long. Despite looking granite, it is made of almost-white concrete. On the face of the monument, it is possible to spot the shapes of human faces and figures. This monument was inaugurated in late 1963.

Located on a gentle slope on the side of a grassy valley, this spomenik occupies a really nice and quiet spot. The nice and peaceful walk leading to it encourages remembrance.

Getting there and moving around

The park is a very well-kept city park, crossed by a few roads which are interdicted to general traffic – basically no cars can enter, I guess these roads can be accessed by car only on special commemorations or similar occasions. Parking is easy close to the museum – itself a rather distinctive construction. A big map of the site can be found on a post close to the parking area (see pics above), and several signs allow you to tour the park, meeting the many monuments according to your interests. Reaching the ‘V’-shaped monument from the main access involves a 10-15 minutes walk along a perfectly prepared road.

Kosmaj, Serbia

Possibly one of the most iconic of all spomeniks, the Kosmaj monument is located on top of a hill, and partly visible from quite a distance, emerging from the treetops. The location was chosen as the foundation site of the Kosmaj partisan detachment, who contributed substantially to the resistance efforts against German occupation forces, with thousands effectives killed or wounded.

The monument was designed by sculptor Vojin Stojić, and unveiled in 1971.