Prisoners of War and War Crimes

  

Russischer Gefangener im Lager Grödig, E. Tony Angerer (1884 – 1950), um 1917, Bleistift auf Papier, Salzburg Museum, , Inv.-Nr. 1443-2011
Russischer Gefangener im Lager Grödig, E. Tony Angerer (1884 – 1950), um 1917, Bleistift auf Papier, Salzburg Museum, , Inv.-Nr. 1443-2011Klicken um Bild zu vergrößern
Nonntal, Russische Kriegsgefangene beim Altersheim bei Feldarbeit, 1. Weltkrieg, UNBEKANNT, 1915 - 1916, Papier, Fotoabzug SW auf Karton, Salzburg Museum, , Inv.-Nr. F 8590
Nonntal, Russische Kriegsgefangene beim Altersheim bei Feldarbeit, 1. Weltkrieg, UNBEKANNT, 1915 - 1916, Papier, Fotoabzug SW auf Karton, Salzburg Museum, , Inv.-Nr. F 8590Klicken um Bild zu vergrößern
Applikation (Schmuck, Tracht), UNBEKANNT, Späte Neuzeit, Zink (Material), geprägt (Technik), Salzburg Museum, , Inv.-Nr. ARCH 329-84
Applikation (Schmuck, Tracht), UNBEKANNT, Späte Neuzeit, Zink (Material), geprägt (Technik), Salzburg Museum, , Inv.-Nr. ARCH 329-84Klicken um Bild zu vergrößern
Oskar Laske (Czernowitz 1874 - 1951 Wien), Verurteilte, 1918, Radierung, Aquatinta, Sammlung Eder, Salzburg
Oskar Laske (Czernowitz 1874 - 1951 Wien), Verurteilte, 1918, Radierung, Aquatinta, Sammlung Eder, SalzburgKlicken um Bild zu vergrößern

Captured
It is a myth that Austria-Hungary treated prisoners of war better than Russia treated imperial-royal soldiers. Beginning in autumn 1914, a huge camp complex was established in the region of Grödig, Niederalm and St. Leonhard for 40,000 prisoners of war and refugees. Russian, Serbian and Italian prisoners of war (except officers) were assigned to labour battalions and deployed in urban and rural areas. The authorities in charge were completely overwhelmed by the numbers of those interned and the length of their imprisonment. Malnutrition, epidemics and poor hygienic conditions led to the death of thousands.

  
Evacuated
Ten thousands of men, women and children fled into the border regions of the Monarchy, others were forcibly evacuated because the imperial-royal army feared both a lack of patriotism and collaboration with the war opponents. Some of these refugees – among them many Jews – lived in the Grödig camp complex, but also in private accommodation in both urban and rural areas.

  
War Crimes
Little is known about the war crimes committed by the imperial-royal army against the civilian population along the front. As early as August 1914, 121 men, women and children were shot dead behind the village church in the Serbian town of Sabac. Thousands of innocent people along the East and Southeast Front – mostly belonging to ethnic or religious minorities in the Habsburg Monarchy – were collectively suspected and persecuted as spies. Proofs of espionage or treason and a fair judgement were lacking in most cases.

  
Dearth of Executioners
Due to the unmanageable number of executions along the front, the imperial-royal military administration had to train additional executioners in specially organised execution courses. It is estimated that up to 36,000 executions were carried out in the first months of the war. Many of those executed were put on show and ridiculed. Denunciations accumulated – cash rewards were offered for the conviction of “spies”.

  
“Racist Doctrine”
Prisoners of War and Refugees as Objects of Study

Anthropology (the study of humankind) experienced a boom in the First World War because it could avail of thousands of prisoners of war in Austrian camps for research, and no consent was required from those affected. The anthropologists Rudolf Pöch (1870–1921) und Josef Wenninger (1886–1959) took measurements of prisoners of war in Grödig as well and made plaster casts of their heads, seeking to define the characteristics of various “racial” types.

  
“The Science of Heredity”
Hella Schürer von Waldheim (1893–1976), a student of Pöch who later became his wife, concentrated her efforts on “scientific heredity tests”, which she carried out on Volhynian refugee women and children in the Grödig camp complex.

  
Genocide
The First World War saw the genocide of the Armenian minority population in the Ottoman Empire (today Turkey). The way to this atrocity was paved by the idea of a purely Turkish nation; the Christian Armenians were regarded as disruptive elements. Estimates reckon a minimum of 300,000 to 1.5 million victims between 1915 and 1917.
  
Conscious Tolerance
The deportations and mass murder of men, women and children are documented in various sources – including information from the members of aid organisation to the authorities in the German Empire and Austria-Hungary. Yet neither state took any action against their ally in war. To this day, Turkish authorities have denied the genocide. Turkish historians and intellectuals who address the issue have to stand trial in court.

 

Visit us on Facebook