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The prisoner-of-war camp in Purgstall an der Erlauf

Historical sites


Due to the huge number of prisoners in the First World War, special camps had to be built to house them. One of these was in Purgstall an der Erlauf.
Thanks to the vigilance of a local resident, archaeologists were able to examine parts of the former ‘Imperial and Royal Prisoner-of-War Camp’ from the First World War in Purgstall an der Erlauf before construction work began. The foundations of four prisoner barracks were found, which – unlike the concrete barracks from the Second World War – were solely post-and-beam structures made of wood. The barracks were each approx. 20.70 m long and approx. 10.40 m wide. A shallow ditch between the buildings had probably been used for drainage.

Life in the prison camp
The prisoner-of-war camp in Purgstall was built in April 1915, covered an area of 50 ha and was able to house 24,500 prisoners. Camps like these had become necessary because there were now so many prisoners of war that it was no longer possible to accommodate them in military housing, barracks or forts as had been done previously. Entire barrack towns were built that were not just home to the prisoners but also housed the bureaucratic administration and supply infrastructure. There were also workshops in which the prisoners produced simple commodities. The conditions in which prisoners of war were to be held were precisely defined in the Hague Land Warfare Convention, the predecessor of the Geneva Convention. Officers were privileged; they did not have to work like the other men and were even entitled to have servants. Men were not allowed to be used in the war effort against their own nation, e.g. in the armaments industry. Protecting prisoners from diseases and epidemics was a particular challenge, and so there was a strong emphasis on hygiene.

From prison camp to summer resort
Most of the barracks in Purgstall were demolished after the war, but the construction material was used to build a number of two-storey houses on the foundations for the Schauboden-Föhrenhain summer resort complex, where a special sports and leisure culture developed in the 1920s.

Tip: extending over four kilometres, the Walk of Peace (Weg des Friedens) leads through the former grounds of the camp and provides information about the lives of the prisoners.

Location and how to get there

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    Das Kriegsgefangenenlager in Purgstall an der Erlauf

    3251 Purgstall


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