The heritage: Mining in Saarland - Part V

State Chancellery Saarland

Forced labour, Peace-making, Mine and home

Coal production in Saarland came to an end in 2012 after over 250 years. This was a defining moment for Saarland because it was almost impossible to imagine the federal state without the mining industry. The ups and downs of the entire federal state were closely linked to coal. Mining played a major role in the lives of almost all families in Saarland, with either a relative or an ancestor having worked in the industry. The fact that coal mining gave our state its own identity is largely thanks to the people who worked in it: the Saarland miners. They laid the foundations for economic development in Saarland and provided momentum for the 'economic miracle' in Germany with their hard work, influencing our state, its values and its cohesion like no other occupational group. The camaraderie and solidarity among miners was the model for the sense of community among people in Saarland. We are now faced with the task of keeping the memories of the mining industry alive. It is important to preserve the knowledge of the mining roots of our state and to pass this knowledge on, especially to young people. The virtual state exhibition DAS ERBE (the heritage) plays a central role in this culture of remembrance. We want this to highlight the special importance of the period characterised by the mining industry for the current and future Saarland society. The DAS ERBE exhibition focuses on miners, their lives, families and culture, their influence on togetherness in Saarland, and on what remains after the end of coal mining, rather than on machinery and mining towers. The exhibition highlights just how rich and varied the heritage of miners is for our state.
I hope that visitors to the "DAS ERBE" exhibition at the Open Gallery of the Google Cultural Institute in the Saarland State Chancellery learn something new about mining in Saarland and are able to gain a better understanding of work underground.

Forced labour
Since around 40% of the regular work- force of the Saar mines had been drawn into military service since 1915, Russian, Italian and French prisoners of war were increasingly employed under ground. More than 4.000 pri- soners were required to work in the Saar coal industry in 1918. During the Second World War too, primarily Russians, Poles, Frenchmen and Italians were used, partly as prisoners of war, partly as more or less voluntarily recruited male and female civilian workers. They were often deported from the streets and were often forced to live under inhuman conditions in camps and slave away in the coal and steel works. Spaniards, Croatians and Slovaks generally worked under better conditions, for they came from countries allied with Germany.
A political and social peace arrange- ment was concluded for the partially independent Saarland after WWII: the coal and steel co-determination act, initiated by the Allies in 1947 still during the occupation period, was signed in 1951 and established parity-based co-determination of the employees in the supervisory and management boards of mining and the iron and steel industry. As early as 1947, Jean Monnet promoted supranational control of the production of coal, steel and iron in order to secure lasting peace in Europe. The French foreign minister Robert Schuman presented his plan for a coal and steel community on 9th May 1950. The agreement was ultimately signed by the ECSC founder States of Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in 1951. Robert Schuman, the keenest campaigner for the European unification process at that time, pleaded in favour of making Saarbrücken the capital of the coal and steel community in 1952.
Mine and home
During the 1950‘s, Saar mining ex- perienced one of the best periods in its long history from an economic, political and social standpoint. Above all the miners enjoyed many privile- ges during this time, such as welfare funds for needy employees, good medical treatment in miners‘ guild hospitals or benefits from a death benefit fund. These also however inclu- ded works libraries and coffee kitchens in which provisions could be bought particularly cheaply or concessionary coal, which was collectively agreed for both active miners and those already retired, in addition to favourable mortgages for home financing. The many miners‘ associations in addition to the miners‘ band and the Saar miners‘ choir are recognised to this day as trademarks far beyond the national borders.
Staatskanzlei des Saarlandes, Öffentlichkeitsarbeit
Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.