VERBUND cleans up the Traisen: old war material is removed during the Traisen renaturation project.

Cleaning up the Traisen:
Removal of war material

24 June 2014

In the final weeks of the Second World War, there were still fierce battles along the Danube between SS units and advancing Soviet troops. Vienna had already been evacuated, but the German troops defended themselves so stubbornly that the advance of the Red Army had to be temporarily halted. The village of Traisen and other hamlets were completely destroyed in the senseless battle. The floodplain is still full of evidence of the battle. Contemporary witnesses and town archives are important sources for assessing the situation.

The large number of sites where the metal detectors were found slowed down the search. "When we heard that parts of an SS tank division had been deployed here, we became even more cautious," says Jan Schüttauf. Unexploded ordnance and ammunition remnants from (tank) artillery are particularly tricky. Over the years, the ammunition does not become less dangerous, but on the contrary, more dangerous. An unfortunate grab with an excavator shovel can detonate a grenade. 

A 70-kilogram aerial bomb was the largest find to date. In the majority of cases, shell fragments and machine gun ammunition were discovered, i.e. "normal" hazardous waste. Mixed in with this is the usual waste from a flooded area: wire remnants from cattle fences, nails, tractor chains.

The earth's magnetic field is measured with the passive probe. Any interference from metal objects is displayed. The size, position and depth of the object can then be determined. One team marks the sites, another digs down to the objects. Walter Brockmann is one of the most experienced explosive ordnance searchers and puts the danger into perspective: "Accidents are far rarer in our industry than you might think. This is due to the cautious approach. There's no playing and guessing here, so if in doubt: hands off!" He has reports of buried infernal machines, wooden and concrete mines where the detector only recognizes the tiny firing pin and poison gas cylinders from the First World War that are still deadly after 100 years. However, these are unlikely to be found along the Traisen.

The Ministry of the Interior moves in to defuse particularly sensitive finds. An employee of the demining service then takes care of proper disposal and, if necessary, defusing. Even a controlled detonation would be conceivable - but such finds have not yet been made in the floodplain. In any case, the area where the Traisen will be given its new, varied riverbed will be clean - even if it will still take a while before the work is completed and the area is handed over to the construction workers as safe.

A 70-kilogram aerial bomb was found during the renaturation of the Traisen. The picture shows the site.