Two forced labour camps were established during the Second World War in the Viehofen flood plain near St. Pölten, Lower Austria. The inmates were recruited as slave labour for various state-owned and private companies in St. Pölten and the surrounding area.
The camp for Jewish forced labourers from Hungary in St. Pölten Viehofen
In 1944 Jewish families were deported from Hungary to Viehofen where they worked under wretched conditions straightening the Traisen river. From 10 July 1944 to 8 April 1945 as many as 180 men, women and children lived in three barracks at the camp. The adults were employed to extract gravel and build embankments while the children carried out all the work within the camp. The air raid shelter was reserved for the Austrian guards and the inmates were exposed without protection to the bombardments. Only eight people are known by name to have died. The records of St. Pölten general hospital cite cardiac insufficiency, stomach ulcer or pneumonia as the cause of death. Inadequate nutrition, lack of hygiene and work to the point of exhaustion are more likely to have been the real causes. These persons are buried together with known non-Jewish slave labourers, prisoners of war and other prisoners and air raid victims in an anonymous mass grave in St. Pölten municipal cemetery (group VI, shaft grave 19).
Shortly before the end of the war, the camp survivors were transferred to Mauthausen concentration camp. Many of them failed to reach their destination. Most of them died on the way of exhaustion or were wilfully shot. An eye witness from St. Pölten recalls that there were several bodies at the Jewish camp in Viehofen. They are probably persons shot by the SS because they were considered too weak to be sent on the death march. No one knows where and if they were ever buried.
In 1966 Kurz-Kuefsteinsche Gutsverwaltung, owner of land in the Viehofen flood plain, installed a sand and gravel quarry on the former camp site. A local businessman began excavation there in 1967 and continued until 1985, by which time the quarry was filled with water. Today, Viehofen lake - or Paderta lake as it is still called by some people - has an area of 19.8 hectares and a maximum depth of six metres. In 2003 the city of St. Pölten acquired the entire site and it has been used since 2005 as a recreation and bathing area for the local population.
The forced labour camp at Glanzstoff factory in St. Pölten
To the south of the Jewish camp the largest forced labour camp in the St. Pölten area was built in 1942. It was the camp for Eastern workers, as they were called, at the Glanzstoff factory. The inmates came from various countries; two third were women from the Soviet Union (mostly from Ukraine), but there were also prisoners of war from France, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Greece and Italy. They were employed in the manufacture of products for the war effort, possibly parachute silk and tyre cord.
After the camp was liberated by the Red Army one of the barracks was used until the end of 1945 as a detention camp during the denazification hearings. Afterwards the installations served until 1967 as emergency accommodation for poor people in St. Pölten. They were razed to the ground in the late 1960s. Today only the foundations of a barrack building, some concrete pillars for the barbed wire fence and half of one of the pillars for the camp gate are all that remain.
Manfred Wieninger, Spurensuche in "Korea", in: Konkret Nr. 7/2005
Manfred Wieninger, Wir leben eh nicht mehr lang - Das Lager St. Pölten-Viehofen in Zeitzeugenberichten, in: Eleonore Lappin, Susanne Uslu-Pauer, Manfred Wieninger, Ungarisch-jüdische Zwangsarbeiterinnen und Zwangsarbeiter in Niederösterreich 1944/45, NÖ Institut für Landeskunde Band 45, Willibald Rosner und Reinelde Motz-Linhart (Hg.), St. Pölten 2006
Invitation for competition submissions for Viehofen memorial, 2009, Kunst im öffentlichen Raum NÖ