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3 Fists of Niš (Crveni Krst, Bubanj, Skull Tower, Constantine, Nis Travel Blog 2021)

Updated: Apr 2

This Travel Blog is from Niš, Serbia. It is called "3 Fists of Niš" and it is about defying your enemies. It's about raising fists in the air, not becoming a victim, and breaking out of an inescapable prison. We traveled to this city that is full of history in 2021.



We visited many of the sights of Niš Serbia such as: Red Cross Concentration Camp (Crveni Krst), Mount Bubanj, Skull Tower, Banovina, and the monuments toward Constantine the Great.


Crveni Krst


During World War II, soon after the Axis force occupation of Nis in 1941, an unused military storage building was repurposed. The German Gestapo, or police, turned this building into a Concentration Camp to accept imprisoned Jews, Romanis and Serbian resistance fighters. It was named after the neighboring Red Cross train station. It was used to detain around 35,000 people from 1941 until 1944. Here people were beaten, starved and tortured. This building is filled with pictures, stories, and items from its time as a concentration camp.


In the autumn of 1942 the Germans began to build their kitchen, dining room, sleeping rooms, and one of the methods of torture, solitary confinement. In the attic there were 20 solitary confinement cells. The cells had barbed wire on the ground to take away the ability for the prisoners to even peacefully lay down.


During the first phase in June 1941, the local administration was ordered to report all of the Nis Jewish population and Jewish shops. All that were not registered were shot. The order required all Jewish and Romani People to not leave their homes without yellow armbands, introduced forced labor and curfew, and limited their access to food. German soldiers then went through the Romani quarter and forcibly shaved the heads of all Romanis in Niš under the pretext that they had lice.


The prisoners stept on stray and experienced unsanitary conditions.


Before shooting them, the Germans ordered the detainees to take off their clothes and they gave them to grave diggers and to the Nis Roma people. One of the people donated the bowties to the National Museum. They belonged to unidentified Jews from this camp who were killed at Mount Bubanj during the mass shootings in February 1942.


During the second phase in December 1941, the German authorities ordered that all adult Jews come to the "Park" hotel for orders. They were arrested there and taken to this concentration camp.


The third phase was for the complete destruction of the Jews in Nis. At this point entire families were brought to this camp.


This camp had guard towers high above ground to keep watch on the prisoners.


This camp is most known for the brave escape that happened on February 12th, 1942. While the guards were taking their usual evening walks around the grounds, the prisoners decided to attack them and then attempt to escape. Since they could not storm the main gate, they ran toward the two rows of barbed wire fencing. They hurled themselves onto the fence until a gap was created that was big enough for a certain amount to pass. 42 of the prisoners died, however 105 were able to escape. This is the first recorded mass escape from a Nazi concentration camp.


On September 14th 1944 the camp officially ceased to exist and the Gestapo left the city.



Bubanj



A 10 minute drive southwest of the concentration camp is Bubanj. The resistance of the prisoners at the concentration camp led to the Germans beginning executions at Bubanj. Women and children were taken to Belgrade and killed in gas chambers. Jewish men and boys over 14 were shot here. Truck loads of prisoners would be taken at a time. This location was fenced in with barbed wire and surrounded by German guards. The prisoners would dig their own graves and then be shot from 10 meters away.


This monument serves as a reminder of the Serbian people's courage and defiance toward their enemies. Here, during the mass executions, an unknown prisoner raised his fist in the air in front of the shooters. This incident inspired the monuments that are here today.


The verses of Nis poet Ivan Vuckovic are carved on the side of the frieze monument in Bubanj: "We were shot but never killed, and never subdued. We crushed the darkness and paved a way for the sun."



Skull Tower



A 14 minute drive east from Bubanj is Skull Tower; one of the most haunting monuments in the world. The rule of the Ottoman empire over Serbia was not pleasant to say the least and the Serbian people were not just going to sit back and do nothing. In Belgrade, we saw the monument to Karađorđe. He was responsible for the First Serbian Uprising in 1804. This proved to be unsuccessful. In May of 1809 was the Battle of Čegar, here in Nis. Trenches were dug for Serbian soldiers to charge the Ottomans.


On Čegar Hill, Vojvoda (Duke) Stevan Sindjelic, the leader of this uprising dug a trench for him and his 3,000 loyal soldiers. This trench was closest to the Turks. On May 31st, the much larger Turkish army took over the trench. Sindjelic realizing no help was coming and not wanting to give the Ottomans the satisfaction of killing his men, took out his gun and blew up the gun powder reserves which created a great explosion that blew up the remaining Serbians in the trench and many of the Ottomans as well.


In this trench and the area nearby 4,000 Serbs and 10,000 Turks were killed. Even with this advantage the Serbian forces withdrew their troops. But that wasn't enough for the Ottomans. The Ottoman commander ordered his men to decapitate the dead Serbians, skill their skulls, fill them with cotton and send them to the Sultan Constantinople as a sign of their victory. With those skulls this horrific monument, skull Tower, was built. This tower stood at the entrance of the city of Nis as a warning sign of what tragedies would be in store for anyone trying to liberate themselves or defy the Ottoman rule.


The foundations of the chapel began in 1894. A plaque dedicated near the chapel in 1904 reads: "To the first Serbian liberators after Kosovo." The chapel was renovated in 1937 and a bust of Sinđelić was added the following year. The Second Serbian Uprising led by Miloš Obrenović, eventually succeeded in turning Serbia as a semiautonomous state.



Banovina



Located on the right bank of the Nisava, near the main entrance to the Fortress, is the Banovina building. It was built in 1889, in the Neo-Renaissance style, according to the project of a Viennese architect.


During the First Balkan War, Niš became the main headquarters of the Serbian army. On July 28, 1914, when a telegram was handed to the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Serbia, Nikola Pašić, in this building, by which Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia.


On that day, the largest conflict in the history of the world - the First World War - began in Niš. Today, Banovina is the seat of the University of Nis, the Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Institute for the Protection of Monuments of Nis and the University Library "Nikola Tesla".




Constantine the Great


Constantine the Great was born in what is now Niš.


Before the battle on the Milvian Bridge in 312 he saw the Christ's monogram in the sky and he heard in this sign you will win.


Constantine then ordered the soldiers to put that sign on their flags and shields. He came out victorious and entered Rome.


In 313 in Milan Constantine co-issued the edict on religious tolerance. This made Christianity equal with other religions in the Empire.


In the battle of Chyrsopolis in 324 Constantine became the absolute ruler of the Roman empire.


He was one of around 17 emperors born in Serbia.


There is a monument to Constantine the Great on the Nišava River. There is a monument dedicated to Constantine Great and Edict of Milan in the 7th of July Park. There is also the Church of Holy Emperor Constantine and Empress Hellen in Saint Sava park.


You can see more of Niš, Serbia and learn more about its history in our travel film "3 Fists of Niš" on YouTube. Out now!


Thanks for reading our blog on Niš in Serbia!


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