Belene- the revival of the Bulgarian concentration camp

Belene is Bulgaria’s only surviving concentration camp, established in 1949 during the country’s communist era. It is the largest camp for politically inconvenient persons for the Communist Party and mirrors the haunting designs of Nazi and Russian concentration camps. The prisoners included not only political dissidents, but also intellectuals, academics, high-ranking military officers, clergy, doctors and industrialists who lost their lives because of their beliefs.

Decades of neglect and indifference have transformed Belene into a solemn place of reflection and remembrance. Several non-governmental organisations and active citizens are working hard with the municipality to regenerate and revitalise the camp site and make it a significant tourist site important to the country’s historical past. The camp is located in a special place – a natural river island, which is something unique for visitors. Belene Island is the largest island in Bulgaria along the Danube, which is also part of the Persina Nature Park.

The initiative committee for the revival of the camp has created several websites with detailed historical facts and documentation, and launched public and media campaigns to tell the stories of the camp’s inhabitants and promote tourism activities there.

Why is it regenerative?

Belene, the sole remaining concentration camp in Bulgaria, dating back to its establishment by the communist regime in 1949, stands as a compelling model of regenerative tourism. Collaborative efforts between NGOs, local citizens, and the municipality have transformed it into a significant tourist destination, preserving the nation’s historical heritage.

Project partners met in Aveiro on the 14th and 15th of September 2023. It was the perfect opportunity to visit the destination with regenerative glasses on, to understand its many assets but also some of the challenges the destination is facing. Face to face project meetings always provide the partners with the unique opportunity to learn about the work of the hosting partner and get valuable insights about the destination. In this case partners were hosted by the dedicated team of management and tourism professionals of the University of Aveiro who shared a wealth of insights about a city that was new to many of the participants.

The Enforce project is well on track when it comes to the project work plan, which means that after having completed the Best Practice collection of innovative examples about storytelling for regeneration and also the Storyteller’s Guide, partners used the meeting to discuss the development of the Enforce Training Programme.

For the next few months partners will be working on developing the content in line with guidelines provided by the University of Usak, our project partner from Turkey.
The course should be available for piloting in January/February 2024 and will also be available in the partner languages once all translations are finalised.

The ENFORCE team met in the beautiful city of Luxembourg for its kick-off meeting. It took place at the premises of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg (also known as CCIL), which opened its doors to warmly welcome all partners.

The team was aware of the importance of this first meeting and approached it with the same enthusiasm, as it plays an important role in building strong bonds that will contribute to the success of the entire cooperation. With the common goal of building a solid foundation, the participants discussed in depth the first steps required for the project ENFORCE.

During this visit, the project objectives were discussed in depth to ensure that each partner has a comprehensive understanding of the overarching goals. The outcome of the kick-off meeting was extremely satisfying for all partners and generated enthusiasm among the team. It was a success and left everyone inspired and energised.

The journey of ENFORCE has officially begun and with the collective expertise of the committed partners, there is no doubt that it will thrive and achieve remarkable results.


“The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein”

Project N: 2022-1-LU01-KA220-VET-000089887

© 2024 Enforce Project
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