The Final Solution in Serbia: The Semlin Judenlager - a Case Study
This study focuses on the second phase of the Final Solution in Serbia — the camp which was constructed in December 1941 across the Sava River from Belgrade, the Semlin Judenlager (Semlin camp for Jews), which housed mainly women, children, and the elderly. Serbian Jewish males aged 14–70 had already been executed by firing squad in October primarily by German army personnel, not SS, at a reprisal ratio of 100:1. Conditions in the bitter cold were very harsh. The two SS officers in charge of the Jews in Semlin were Emanuel Schäfer and Bruno Sattler. And in the spring of 1942, the 7,500 Semlin survivors were murdered in a gas van brought in for this purpose, thus saving the trouble of deportation. The prisoners had been deceived into thinking the vans were to transport them to a “reception” camp. Every day for two months the van carrying some 100 women and children left Semlin, drove through downtown Belgrade with its passengers screaming, on its way to the burial ground where the gassed bodies were unloaded and buried. No attempt was made to shroud this operation in secrecy. After the Jewish question in Serbia was “solved,” another 40,000 people perished in the Semlin camp. In 1943 a German Kommando (labor squad) dug up the bodies from the mass grave in order to burn the evidence of the massacres. The butchery of Serbian Jews shows the SS as a highly organized mass-murder machine, freely participating and fully aware of the organization’s activities.