MAMULA ISLAND, Montenegro, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- A former World War II concentration camp in Montenegro has been approved to be turned into a luxury resort, despite outrage from the families of former prisoners.
The government of Montenegro gave the go-ahead to refurbish the historical site after posting an ad declaring the tiny island -- just 200 meters in diameter -- on the Adriatic Sea was open for investors.
Eventually, a deal was made with Swiss-Egyptian developer Orascom, signing a 49-year lease deal that the company said will create "around 200 new jobs and bring €7.5 million [$8.11 million] of revenue for the Montenegrin state over a 15-year period."
But the fortress on Marmula Island was built in 1853 as a defensive port along the southernmost border of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the 1940s, it was turned into a concentration camp by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and his fascist army. Stories of the cruelty that took place there became known after the war and Italian military records document 2,300 people were imprisoned there and 130 were killed or starved to death in the fortress.
The new resort, while leaving much of the fortress structure intact and adding a small memorial will also add an infinity pool, yacht marina, spa, wine bar, restaurant and dance floor.
"It was cold, they were starved and the overall conditions were very bad," said Jovanka Uljarevic, granddaughter of one of the inmates to newspaper Balkan Insight.
With local WWII Veteran Assn. and city council backing, the government said it was either offer the island up to investors or let the fortress rot.