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The fort was originally built in 1853 under Austro-Hungarian rule. Nearly a century later, the stone structure was occupied by the Italian army during the second world war and used as a concentration camp. At Mamula, prisoners – most of whom were from the immediate region – were tortured and starved for several years beginning in May 1942. Mamula’s grim legacy will open a new chapter through a 49-year lease deal with Switzerland-based Orascom Development Holding AG, which won approval from the Montenegrin government for the redevelopment.

Related: 134-year-old British sea fort given new life as a luxury island resort

The plan involves retrofitting the fort with guest rooms and an indoor restaurant as well as a dining establishment on the rounded terrace. The fort takes up 90 percent of the island’s square footage, but there is still plenty of room for a full marina and private beach with a watersports center. On the fort’s upper deck, the plan calls for multiple pool decks and plenty of other amenities for relaxing on a near-tropical island surrounded by soothing blue water.

Those who were imprisoned there, and their family members, have adamantly opposed the redevelopment project. Despite the allure of the rustic structure and the promise of sparkling poolside lounging, many say turning a hotbed of wartime cruelty into a luxury vacation spot is a bit unseemly. In an interesting twist, the developers will be required to preserve and protect the basic form of the structure, layout, and inscriptions on the facade. That’s likely to create an eerie reminder to resort guests of the island’s violent history.


Images via Mamula Island