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Officers' villa, pump house and soldiers' cemetery of the former POW camp Knittelfeld, Styria, Austria

The soldiers' cemetery, originally called the camp cemetery, belonged with the pump house and officers' villa to the former Knittelfeld POW camp in which thousands of POWs were accommodated during World War I. After Italy entered the war in May 1915 a new front, the south-western front, was created between Austro-Hungary and Italy, and the camp location then also served as a military hospital for the Austro-Hungarian army from 1915 onwards.

The still existing buildings include the pump house – a timber construction with a tower-like addition used for water supply of the camp and officers' villa. This has an L-shaped ground plan and consists of a brickwork lower level and upper levels of timber construction.

Austria, Styria

Type of WWI-heritage

  • POW-camp

Dimensions

No information available.

State of repair/preservation

The installations still existing are in good condition.

Historical WWI Context

Already in 1914 and shortly following the start of the war, representatives of the Austro-Hungarian military authorities and civil departments discussed possible locations for POW camps. As a consequence, several large barrack camps for POWs were erected in Styria during World War I, such as at Feldbach, Lebring and Knittelfeld in Upper Styria.
The camp at Knittelfeld was erected on the property of the large landowner and industrial entrepreneur Otto Zeilinger at his own initiative. A barrack settlement was constructed on an area of approximately 450,000 square metres to the north-west of the original town centre. The number of prisoners, primarily from Tsarist Russia, approached 30,000 in 1915 and therefore significantly exceeded the number of residents in Knittelfeld. The camp itself consisted of 220 buildings – mainly barracks but also a swimming pool – and had its own water supply system.
After Italy entered the war in May 1915 a new front, the Southwestern Front, was created between Austria-Hungary and Italy, and the camp then also served as a military hospital for the Austro-Hungarian army from 1915 onwards.
After World War I the barracks were not demolished but initially used as “emergency apartments”, and these were gradually replaced by new buildings. As a consequence the area developed to become a new town district of Knittelfeld – the “Neustadt”.
Still existing today from the former Knittelfeld POW camp are the soldiers' cemetery, originally called the camp cemetery, the pump house and the officers' villa. The pump house is a timber construction with a tower-like addition for supplying the camp with water. The officers' villa with an L-shaped ground plan consists of a brickwork lower level and upper levels of wooden constructions.

State of legal protection

The cemetery, pump house and officers' villa are not heritage-protected.

Owner

The cemetery is supervised by the Black Cross. The pump house belongs to the borough of Knittelfeld and the officers' villa is privately owned.

Kind of cultural use of WWI

No touristic use.

Opening

Access to the military cemetery is free.

Entrance Fee

Access to the military cemetery is free.

Information regarding cities, villages, other touristic attractions (non-WWI) nearby

Further information:

Land Steiermark: www.steiermark.com
Region Murtal: www.murtal.at
City of Knittelfeld: www.knittelfeld.at

Accomodation

Further information:

Land Steiermark: www.steiermark.com
City of Knittelfeld: www.knittelfeld.at

Public Transport

Further information:

ÖBB: www.oebb.at
Steirischer Verkehrsverbund: www.verbundlinie.at

Further information sources

Publications:

Stefan Brenner, Das Kriegsgefangenenlager in Knittelfeld: eine Untersuchung der Akten des Kriegsarchivs Wien von den ersten Bemühungen Otto Zeilingers zur Errichtung des Lagers Knittelfeld bis zur Umwandlung des Kriegsgefangenenlagers in ein Militärspital, Diplomarbeit Universität Graz (2011).
Gerhard Dienes & Gundi Jungmeier (Hg.), Geschlossene Gesellschaft? Die Entwicklung der Knittelfelder Neustadt vom Gefangenenlager zur aufstrebenden Wohngegend. Ausstellungskatalog, Graz (2009).
Peter Hansak, Das Kriegsgefangenenwesen während des I. Weltkrieges im Gebiet der heutigen Steiermark, Dissertation Universität Graz (1991).
Julia Walleczek-Fritz, Kriegsgefangenschaft und Kriegsgefangenenlager in Österreich-Ungarn im Ersten Weltkrieg, in: Ort – Erinnerung – Denkmal. Relikte des Ersten Weltkriegs. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Kunst und Denkmalpflege, Heft 3/4 (2015), S. 273–282.

Museums Private Collections

Further information:

Museum für Geschichte, Graz: www.museum-joanneum.at/museum-fuer-geschichte

Location

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