Melk was a (subcamp of Mauthausen located approximately 100 km to the east of Linz (Austria). It was established
January 11, 1944.
Its main purpose was to provide forced
labor for the different tunneling projects in the surrounding hills.
The hills consisted of fine sand and quartz. Due to this, a vast number
of prisoners were buried alive beneath cave-ins while working inside.
The inmates of the camp were of all nationalities.
No single nationality was dominant. There were Poles, Hungarians, Yugoslavs,
French, Italians and Czechs.
A gas chamber was built and well camouflaged. The chamber was actually better built
and planned than that at Mauthausen.
It was built of brick with double walls 25 cm. apart, the inner walls
being tiled like a bathroom. The double walls acted as sound proofing
so that the screams of the dying would not have been heard by passing
prisoners or by the general public. Fortunately the war ended before
the chamber became active.
Melk also had its own crematorium. Its tall smoke stack,
pointing like a finger to the sky, was an obvious landmark. It covered
a large area and its design was an improvement on those of Mauthausen,
Gusen and Ebensee. Adjoing
the crematorium was a mortuary which was well ventilated and well tiled.
The average number of prisoners in Melk was about 8.000,
so it scarcely needed a gas chamber and crematorium of its own. The
reason for the building was that there were plans to eventually turn
Melk into an advanced extermination camp. In the summer months the crematorium
accounted for eight to sixteen deaths per day, while in the winter of
1944-45, the number increased to between 20-30 a day.
The Commandant of Melk was Obersturmbannfûhrer
Julius Ludolf. It is also known that at some period the infamous Untersturmbannfûhrer
Streitwieser held command. The construction works were under the supervision
of Obergruppenfûhrer Kammler and Obersturmfûhrer Schulz.
The Melk camp was established well within the bounds
of a large Wehrmacht garrison. Thus it was exposed to passing soldiers
and civilians. In fact it was quite possible to look down on the camp
and adjoining army barracks from the link roads which were on a higher
level. Even the crematorium entrance faced straight on to one of the
main Wehrmacht roads. Nothing was done to conceal the stench and atrocities
from the local inhabitants and soldiers.
As the German forces withdrew on all fronts, there
was increasing chaos in the areas which were still under Nazi control.
Even though the war was lost, the deportation trains and forced marches
still went on. Melk was one of the camps that received an extreme number
of these redeported prisoners. When the camp was finally liberated by
U.S. troops on May 5, 1945, the SS guards had fled leaving the camp in an unbelievable situation. The dead
and dying lay scattered all over the grounds and the final prisoner
count showed a population of over 14.000. The estimated number of victims
was approximately. 10,000 (not counting the unknown number which perished
in the tunnels).
Julius Ludolf was hanged in April 1947. Streitwieser,
Kammler and Schulz managed to escape.