- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 21, 2016

A former concentration camp on a small island off the coast of Montenegro could be transformed into a luxury beach resort — a decision that has sparked international outrage.

The tiny island of Mamula, located on the bay of Kotor in between Montenegro and Croatia, is dominated by a 19th-century fortress that once served as a concentration camp used by occupying Italian troops serving under fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

It’s estimated 2,300 people were imprisoned on the island, of whom 130 were killed or starved to death, CNN reported.

Now the island is set to be transformed into a luxury resort, complete with swimming pools, yacht marina, spa, restaurants and dance floor.

The Montenegrin government has granted a 49-year lease to Swiss-Egyptian developer Orascom at a price of $1.64 per square meter, according to CNN.

The company says it plans to invest $16.3 million to turn the crumbling fortress into a vacation destination.

“We were facing two option: to leave the site to fall into ruin or find investors who would be willing to restore it and make it accessible to visitors,” Olivera Brajovic, head of Montenegro’s national directorate for tourism development, told the Agence France Presse.

Salt & Water, the firm behind the resort design, wrote on its website that the concept was aimed at preserving “one of the most impressive architecture landmarks of Montenegro.”

But the planned resort has angered many around the globe, including family members of people who died in the prison camp.

“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,” Olivera Doklestic told AFP. Her grandfather, father and uncle were imprisoned at Mamula.

Most former concentration camps in Europe stand as solemn memorials to the millions of prisoners who perished within.

The Montenegrin government defended the plan saying the project would boost the local economy, Balkan Insight reported. Officials said the island’s stark history would be preserved since the resort plan includes a “memorial room or a museum.”

• Kellan Howell can be reached at khowell@washingtontimes.com.

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