The heritage: Mining in Saarland - Part II

State Chancellery Saarland

The power of faith, Light and darkness, Expansion

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.

The power of faith
The special working conditions under ground encouraged the emergence of fervent religiosity among the miners right from the outset. Furthermore, a strong sectarian tension had existed between the predominately ruralcatholic working population and the Prussian-protestant mine owners in the Saar coalfield since the 19th century. This conflict erupted in a particularly intensive manner after the „culture war“ between the State and the Church on the occasion of the Marian apparitions in the North Saarland miners‘ parish of Marpingen. With St. Barbara fraternities and miners‘ communities, the first self-organisation bodies of the Saarland mining workers were of a confessional-catholic nature.
Light and darkness
In pre-industrial times without artificial light, people‘s lives were still very heavily influenced by the natural, so to speak, cosmic alternation of light and dark. The dark had a mystical quality; it was associated with death, spirits or hell. The unearthly and unnameable lurked in the dark. It is not only for this reason that many myths and legends were associated with the gloom of mining. The absolute darkness remained a central experience of the miners in the world under ground into the turn of the 20th century. Great experience and particular skills were required in order to be able to move about and work reasonably safely in the light of the mining lamps. Unaccustomed mindfulness towards things and people became not least for this reason one of the miners‘ basic virtues.
Under Prussian and Bavarian administration, the coal and steel industry around the Saar grew into one of Germany‘s leading economic forces during the second half of the 19th century. By opening up the bituminous coal resources which were required for the blast furnace process, the Saarland iron and steel industry was also able to develop on a European scale. The basic prerequisites were provided by the Saar Coal Canal and extension of the railway network since the 1850‘s. It not only provided new sales markets and accelerated demographic growth. The railway and the railway-based mines of Dechen, Heinitz, Dudweiler or Reden built on its routes catapulted the Saarland industrial area to a greater degree economically, politically and socially into the future.
Staatskanzlei des Saarlandes, Öffentlichkeitsarbeit
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