Between April 21, 1944 and April 15, 1945, a concentration camp existed at the Freiherr von Birago Pioneer Barracks in Melk. With around 14,390 concentration camp prisoners who were conscripted here for forced labor within one year, it was one of the largest subcamps of the Mauthausen concentration camp site and the largest concentration camp subcamp in Lower Austria.
The concentration camp prisoners came from more than 20 different countries and worked mainly on the construction of an underground gallery in the so-called Wachberg, which is located between Melk and Loosdorf. From late autumn 1944 onwards, armaments (mainly ball bearings) for the Steyr-Daimler-Puch company were produced in the tunnels dug by concentration camp prisoners.
At least 4,884 concentration camp prisoners perished in the camp and on the construction site, and more than 3,500 of the bodies were cremated in the specially built crematorium in Melk starting in the fall of 1944. The former crematorium building was declared a public monument in 1962 and has since housed the Melk Concentration Camp Memorial. The current overview exhibition on contemporary history in the memorial's premises was realized by Bertrand Perz and Gottfried Fliedl at the beginning of the 1990s. For several years, the memorial has been managed by the association MERKwürdig on behalf of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp Memorial within the framework of the memorial law. Zeithistorisches Zentrum Melk (Melk Contemporary History Center), which also organizes regular events to promote a critical examination of topics such as violence, racism and right-wing extremism.