Hidden in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains, the Polemi Concentration Camp offers a unique glimpse into Cyprus’ history. The camp hosted Cypriot resistance fighters in the latter part of the 1950s, before Cyprus gained independence from Britain.
From August 1946 to January 1949, the British government established and operated a dozen camps in Cyprus, which were used as detention centers for more than 50,000 illegal immigrants, mostly Holocaust survivors seeking to resettle in Palestine. These camps were shut down after the establishment of the state of Israel. But a decade later, the British built a new set of camps on the Mediterranean island.
The Polemi Detention Center was one of eight British camps in Cyprus during the Cypriot War of Independence. From 1955 to 1959, the Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston (National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters), or EOKA, led an armed campaign against British colonial rule. Polemi opened near the end of the conflict and only operated for 102 days. But during that brief period, some 400 resistance fighters who were detained there experienced violence, cruelty, and torture. The camp was notorious for its horrific and inhumane conditions. In November 2017, 35 former EOKA fighters sought damages from the British government for the human rights abuses they experienced during the war.
Today, the site of the former concentration camp is barren. A few structures remain, including a guard tower, some old military vehicles. One of the remaining buildings hosts a small display explaining a bit about the camp and the people who were imprisoned there.