Mamula Island – Montenegro - Atlas Obscura

Mamula Island

Former military fort and site of untold horrors during WWII, this island may become the Adriatic's next luxury resort. 


The government of Montenegro has big plans for this haunting, uninhabited islet in the Adriatic Sea. 

Built in 1853, the first life of the island of Malma was that of an Austro-Hungarian military fort. The island, however, became most notorious during World War II for the isolated concentration camp built atop the footprint of the former’s ramparts. 

From May 30, 1942 until the end of the war, Benito Mussolini’s forces used Mamula Island to house thousands of individuals against their will. Though specific record-keeping practices wasn’t a forte of the regime, Mamula was known for being a den of cruelty and torture. At least 130 deaths were associated with the place, most of which resulted from starvation.

After the closure of the concentration camp, Mamula and the rest of the buildings were left to moulder. No one has lived on the island since. Though the island is situated at an ideal distance from shore for that remote feel, paired with easy access, no efforts to redevelop the land or the buildings — including hundreds of cells once used to hold prisoners — until now.

Montenegro’s officials have a plan to refurbish the crumbling fort. In this bold vision, Mamula would be scrubbed of its darkness to the point of being unrecognizable: the former concentration camp would become a modern, upscale beachside resort. Spa? Check. Infinity pool? Check. VIP nightclub? But of course. The price tag of this venture is an estimated 15 million Euro, and was pitched as an excellent way to create jobs for locals while capitalizing on the region’s booming tourism scene.

As of January 2016, a Swiss investment firm has taken the bait. Orascom Development Holding AG signed a 49-year lease to make this nightmare-turned-dream into a reality. Now if only these hypothetical future tourists will remain ignorant of where they’re sleeping…

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