How are officers treated in prisoner-of-war camps

The K. & k. POW camp 1914-1918

The causes, the course and the catastrophic end of the First World War can be read in thousands of books. We cannot go into that in the context of this exhibition; we are only concerned with the immediate consequences for Marchtrenk.

Documents on the k. u. k. POW camps (in future only “camp”) can be found in the resolutions of the community committee, in the parish chronicle, in the report of the Roman Catholic cooperator Alois Gruber, in the diary of the Volga German Adolf Braun, in the dissertation by Dr. Julia Walleczek, in the local chronicles of Josef Heimann and Viktoria Weinzierl, in the chronicle of the gendarmerie, in the files of the Army History Museum and in numerous newspaper articles. These documents have been printed out - often for the first time - on the initiative of the museum association and are available to later (local and military) researchers.

If you want to find out more about the camp, we recommend the book by DI Erwin Prillinger, published by the Museum Association.

In the minutes of the municipal committee of July 2, 1914, it says:
At the request of Dr. Holzhey becomes Sr. kaiserl over the nefarious cowardly act of the murderer. and royal. The Highness of the Archduke and heir to the throne Ferdinand and his wife expressed their indignation and decided to express their sympathy ... to the steps of the highest throne in writing."

There was great outrage among the people and a swift punishment of the Serbs was demanded. It was believed that the war would last for a very short time.

Cooperator Gruber's report begins like this: "The mightiest and most terrible war of all time, which began in July 1914, did not leave a trace in any of the villages in our vast fatherland, Austria. Before the war, Marchtrenk was often called the “quiet heath village”, but it was no longer during the war.

It was on December 2, 1914, when the k.u.k. On behalf of the military authorities, an Austrian captain appeared on the state railway and told the attentive Marchtrenkern that a large Russian camp was to be built in their community.

The reasons for choosing Marchtrenk were:

  • Near the train
  • Gravel ground
  • inferior cultivation soil

That same day in the evening a first train brought the first building materials. However, not a single worker was on the spot ... " Construction began with 20 local workers. In February 1915 construction was in full swing with 3,000 workers and 30 companies were employed. The first barracks were ready at the beginning of December, and by the end of the year there were 40 accommodations. On December 31, the first 300 Russians came from the Wegscheid camp on foot. That evening, Commander General Goglia took over the camp. His adjutant was First Lieutenant Dr. Salzmann from Wels. On January 4, 1915, a Hungarian guard battalion (850 men, 23 officers) and another 1,000 Russians came from Wegscheid. On January 15th, the construction of the warehouse line began. “... It was even made possible by the same that captured Russians could be transported from deep in Russia to a barrack in Marchtrenk directly by train without having to leave their wagon or train.

Typhus broke out in the camp on February 15. At the beginning of March, Bishop Hittmair died of this disease after visiting the Mauthausen camp. Due to the lack of knowledge about the pathogen and the mode of transmission (by lice), control was very difficult. 81 cases were reported between February 21 and 27. As a result, greater emphasis was placed on hygiene: the barracks towns were well equipped with sewers, water pipes, bathing, delousing and disinfection systems, incinerators for faeces and sewage sludge basins.

As the number of prisoners grew rapidly, the Graz Guard Battalion No. XII arrived in Marchtrenk on March 10th. The highest number of prisoners of war was reached in May with 35,009 men.

The first Russians fled on March 2nd. At the beginning of April a barracks burned down, set on fire by prisoners of war. On May 20, the martial law ("... will be judged according to the law and punished with death by hanging.") Announced.

With the legitimation of compulsory labor in 1915, the barrack towns emptied. As of January 1, 1916, 17,950 prisoners belonged to the Marchtrenk land register, so they belonged to this camp, of which over 12,600 soldiers were on duty. For example, on July 3, 1915, two trains with prisoners of war (2,540 men and 79 guards) left for Hungary as harvest workers. They also had to work in Marchtrenk, Buchkirchen and Kremsmünster. On June 13, the first Italian prisoners (138 men, three officers) came to the camp.

The first reports appeared in August that the prisoners of war were becoming a burden for the population. Escaped officers and prisoners tried to survive through break-ins and theft. The peace with Russia in 1918 lifted the mood in town. Houses were flagged. Desertion and flight, surreptitious trafficking and unauthorized purchases of food were on the agenda.

On September 18, 1918, a six-man Italian officer guard walked out of the camp disguised as Austrian soldiers. You never saw her again.

After the political upheaval in November 1918, the guards left the camp. The prisoners came to the place. 500 Italian prisoners were set up as a new guard and equipped with rifles and ammunition. After six days, the prisoners drove home. Everything went perfectly.

As a result, a people's armed forces with 30 Marchtrenkern members were founded, one of whom accidentally shot himself. The camp guards and the guards stole everything that was not “nailed down”, it was reported. On December 11th, a four-man gendarmerie branch was set up in the camp.