Bombing scars on the architecture of Belgrade

A kind of pattern of destruction of the core of Belgrade – its main artery, has been repeated several times throughout the turbulent history of the capital.

The eightieth anniversary of the four-day Nazi bombing of Belgrade began April 6, 1941 in the so-called “Operation Revenge” provokes the memory of one of the most brutal air strikes of the 20th century but also on the history of the destruction that Belgrade suffered. At that time, a significant urbanity on two rivers, through the long history of its existence, from the “town in the north” to the capital of Yugoslavia, was bombed over 40 times.

Due to the position of the city located at the crossroads of the waterway, Belgrade became one side for a reason The “gate” of the Balkans, while for another he represented The “door” of Central Europe, which marked the soil of Belgrade as suitable for conflicts. Centuries ago, frequent destruction affected the urban development of the city and its specific aesthetics, but also the development of culture, social attitude towards cultural heritage, which has repeatedly been the target of destruction, and never worthily marked in the culture of memory.

Terrible trial over Belgrade

The bombing of Belgrade in 1941 was one of the largest and most tragic airstrikes in history, the consequences of which, in addition to huge human casualties, resulted in the destruction of the city, its capital buildings and symbols, but also a huge opus of cultural heritage. The main artery of the cityfrom Kalemegdan, across Knez Mihailova Street and Terazije to Slavija – it was completely devastated in four days of bombing and the several days of fires that followed.

The historical context in which the bombing took place is an overture to Yugoslavia’s entry into World War II, and was preceded by the March coup – demonstrations on March 27, in which resistance was clearly expressed and thus the beginning of the anti-fascist struggle in this area was engraved in history. for the attack on Belgrade.

Ruins of the National Library, 1941 – Source: Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of the City of Belgrade

The city’s main artery was completely devastated in four days of bombing.

During several difficult days, with an intensive air attack, about 600 buildings were completely destroyed, about 1,600 were damaged, and about 7,000 buildings were partially damaged. The airstrikes were planned to primarily devastate significant symbols and landmarks – military and infrastructural facilities, cultural monuments, apartment blocks and buildings, religious buildings, hospitals and shelters.

Among the buildings that were damaged were the building of the Old Palace in Kralja Milana Street, the Headquarters of the Circle of Serbian Sisters, the building of the Main Post Office, the Mortgage Bank – today the History Museum, the Synagogue on Dorcol, but also the entire central stretch with Terazije. Among the most important buildings, worth mentioning, was the building of the National Library on Kosančićev Venac, which still exists in its ruins. The attack, carried out on the third day of the bombing, caused a fire responsible for the collapse of the library. Characterized by the greatest crime against culture, the loss of a fund of over 500,000 volumes, books and documents, however, could have been warned.

Ruins, fire and desolation were a picture of what war brings with it. The consequences of the bombing are, apart from the rare official data we are witnessing, inconceivable and insufficiently researched. Evidence immortalized by an amateur camera only in the difficult days after the bombing, testifies to the outline of the city on the site of the former capital.

Ruins of the Old Palace in Kralja Milana, 1941, Source – Archives of Yugoslavia

A history of great destruction

During the several thousand long existence of the settlement, and later the city, at the confluence of the Sava and the Danube, Belgrade was destroyed 44 times in 115 wars which took place over its soil, most of which were committed during the previous century.

The first bombings occurred several times over a period of 300 years, from the 15th to the 18th century, and were committed, for the most part, by the Turks. For the first time in the fight against the Christian army in 1456, cannons were used to attack the city fortification – Kalemegdan, which, thanks to the defenders who took over the cannon weapons, remained intact. Two hundred years later, at the end of the 17th century, there was a conflict between Austria-Hungary and Turkey on the territory of Belgrade, during which a fire broke out which resulted in the explosion of a weapons depot and the demolition of 4,000 houses at the time.

Belgrade was destroyed 44 times in 115 wars that took place over its soil.

The development of cannons strengthened the struggle for supremacy over Belgrade between the two powers, so it followed six-day Ottoman revenge of Belgrade in which the city was destroyed to the ground by cannons. The Ottomans then bombed Belgrade in the early 19th century at the entrance of the liberators led by Karadjordj. The next, and at the same time the last, Belgrade was bombed 1862 in an all-day attack that significantly destroyed the city, but also brought with it an introduction to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the final declaration of independence.

Austro-Hungarian demolition of Dorcol and Sava Male

Less than a century later, on the eve of the beginning of the First World War, Belgrade 1914 shelled by the Austro-Hungarians. Terrible explosions of modern, armored cannons burned and destroyed a large part of Dorcol and Savamala, and the city fell under the rule of enemies after the battle. The following year, Belgrade was shelled again in a ten-day conflict.

Destroyed building on Terazije, Bombing of Belgrade, Source – Wikipedia

Rat Week

During World War II, Belgrade was devastated on several occasions in just a few years, not allowing it to rebuild its ruins and its former symbols. After the Nazi bombing in 1941, which caused huge damage to the city’s fabric, three years later, the city was bombed by the Allies eight times for a period of several months under the symbolic name “Rat Week”.

One of the significant dates was 16. april, on Orthodox Easter when the maternity hospital was hit by an air strike. The bombing caused already immeasurable damage to already devastated Belgrade – airports, shipyards, tracks, factories of Ikarus, Zmaj and Teleoptik, Staro Sajmište, Palace of Albania, Technical and Law Faculty, Bajloni’s market and other facilities and roads were affected. the damage took a huge number of human lives.

Map of Allied bombing targets, Source – Wikipedia

Bombing after 45 years of peace

The last time, 45 years after the last destruction, Belgrade was bombed by the North Atlantic Alliance with air attacks that lasted from March 24 to June 9. During the bombing, important landmarks of Belgrade were destroyed, including the Aval Tower, the RTS building, the solitaire of the Usce business center and the General Staff building, the ruins of which have not been repaired to this day.

Attitude towards the culture of memory

Looking at Belgrade through the prism of time, it is clear that its soil is a witness turbulent histories of wars and devastation which significantly influenced the development that followed. A kind of pattern of destroying the core of Belgrade – his main arteries, has been repeated several times throughout history. Some of the destroyed buildings are still today, decades after the bombing, still devastated – from Public libraries on Kosančićev venac, all the way to the General Staff building.

Fifty years after the 1941 bombing, the city has always partially recovered. New buildings have sprung up on the damaged foundations and remains of buildings, masking the ruins by mixing elements of the present with elements of the past. Inadequate, decades-long treatment of the destroyed symbols of the former Belgrade, raises the question attitudes towards the culture of remembrance and reviews of turbulent history and scars which the city carries with it.

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Source: Gradnja by

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