The heritage: Mining in Saarland - Part IV

State Chancellery Saarland

The Saarland – a mining power, Solidarity, Loud and heavy

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 Saarland – a mining power
The Saarland as a national political entity results from mining and the 1920 Treaty of Versailles, which ruled that the steel and mining area plus the living areas of the commuting workers was to be cut off from Ger- many and brought under the League of Nations for 15 years. In the 1935 referendum, almost all Saarlanders decided to „rejoin“ the German Reich, forming an independent administrative unit under Nazi rule in the „Saarland“. The Saarland was divided from Germany again after WWII. As after 1920, its mines were ceded to French ownership, now under the „Régie des Mines de la Sarre“. The Saar State founded in 1947 was partly independent in an economic and monetary union with France. After the failed 1955 poll, the Saarland became politically a German Federal State on 1st January 1957; 10 months later, the new Saarland became joint owner of its coal resources for the first time in history with 26% of shares in the „Saarbergwerken“.
There were 3 strikes with historically important results in 250 years’ mi- ning around the Saar. The organised workers‘ movement in the Saarland began in 1889/90 with a massive walkout led by Nikolaus Warken, nicknamed Eckstein and formed in Bildstock as a „legal protection association for the mining population“ with a strike fund and its own press. The „100 days strike“ early in 1923 began as a wage conflict, but was mainly fought ruthlessly as a national conflict against „French foreign rule“ during French occupation of the Ruhr. In November 1945, the united trade union also desired by France, the „Industrieverband Bergbau“ (mining industrial association) was set up and subsequently merged in the DGB as IG Bergbau und Energie in 1956. The IGB could demonstrate its trade union strength one last time around the Saar in the 1997 strike. In view of the dwindling significance of mining in Germany, it united with IG Chemie in the same year forming the IGBCE.
Loud and heavy
Owing to the particular situation under ground, application of techno- logy to the working processes by compressed air or electricity did not become established until much later than in other branches of industry. This admittedly brought tremendous relief from the traditionally hard phy- sical work under ground. Nevertheless, the introduction of technology was also accompanied by increasing noise pollution by large machines: heading machines superseded picks and pit horses were replaced by compressed air and diesel locomotives. One of the peculiarities of mining are the pick hammers which had been used since the 1920‘s and were even still used in isolated cases around the Saar up to 2012.
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.
Translate with Google