Waldkraiburg in the district of Mühldorf-am-Inn in southern Bavaria, like Hermoupolis on the Greek island of Syros, is a town where refugees arrived in poverty and within decades established prosperous industries. In the late 1930s the defence contracting company Chemie GmbH established an explosives factory, the Werk Kraiburg, near the village of Kraiburg, but secluded from public view in the forests, well-camouflaged against reconnaissance aircraft, and with good rail connections to the rest of Germany. During the Second World War the factory consisted of about 500 isolated camouflaged bunkers for mixing hazardous materials, and had a workforce of 2,500, many of them forced labourers. A plant at nearby Aschau-am-Inn provided cellulose nitrate that was used as a raw material at Kraiburg.
When the war ended the Pürten refugee camp was set up in the buildings of the explosives factory and took in large numbers of displaced persons from south-eastern and eastern Europe, as well as many Sudeten Germans who were expelled from their homes in northern Bohemia. Many sought means by which they could make their livings, beginning with the traditional occupation of prisoners-of-war, the carving of children’s toys from the plentiful wood in the surrounding forests. Some of the Sudeten refugees established a glassworks, continuing the traditions of Bohemia glassmaking, and others began new industries such as plastics.
From 1950 a new municipality, Waldkraiburg, was established, and during the following decades it acquired all the characteristics of a small town, housing in both the public and private sectors, schools and a hospital. Its Haus der Kultur (House of Culture) is the focus for explaining the community’s unusual history. Within it are four museums. The town museum shows how refugees moved to the Pürten camp and found ways of making their livings in the Bavarian forests. The glass museum reflects the traditions of Bohemian glassmaking brought by those expelled from the Sudentenland. Most of the 800 exhibits were made in northern Bohemia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the collections includes some particularly fine pieces from the Biedermeier period, and some works of the celebrated glass painter Friedrich Egerman (1777-1860). The Heimatstube der Adlergebirge (the Eagle Mountains homeland) illustrates life in the area before the Second World War, displaying traditional textiles (including embroidery), paintings and handicraft products. This museum holds the archives of the Freundekreises Sudentdeutsch Wandervogel, the friends of the Sudeten German refugees. The fourth museum in the House of Culture is concerned with firefighting.
Another museum, Industriemuseum Bunker 29, is located in one of the buildings of the chemical plant at No 6 Schweidnitzer Weg. It shows the nature of working conditions in the plant, and explains the arrival in the area of refugees in the late 1940s, and taking a plastics company as an example, shows how new industries were established in the former munitions factory. Bunker 29 is the fourth of 18 stopping points on a trail through the historic buildings of Waldkraiburg that begins at the House of Culture.