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Mining formed the foundation of industrialisation in Saxony, beginning as early as the 10th century and creating capital and early technical know-how. It is the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) region, with its numerous sites, which primarily demonstrates this. At the beginning of the 19th century, textile ... more
Mining formed the foundation of industrialisation in Saxony, beginning as early as the 10th century and creating capital and early technical know-how. It is the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) region, with its numerous sites, which primarily demonstrates this. At the beginning of the 19th century, textile processing became the force behind progress. The significance of the metal processing industry grew in the wake of textile manufacturing. Saxony is one of the birthplaces of the German automotive industry and renowned German automotive manufacturers continue to be based in the region.
“Money is made in Chemnitz, multiplied in Leipzig and spent in Dresden”. To this day, this Saxon saying emphasises the diversity of one of Europe’s vanguard industrial regions during the 19th and early 20th century – Saxony. The region of Chemnitz was the industrial centre, Leipzig was Saxony’s link to the rest of the world and Dresden was the headquarters of the public administration, there to serve the common good. Saxony’s Route of Industrial Heritage revives this trio and invites visitors to discover an industrial heritage landscape which is varied and rich.
Saxony sees itself as a state of culture and industry. Industrial heritage is part of Saxony’s culture and identity. It dates back to Erzgebirge mining operations in the Middle Ages and a pre-industrial commercial landscape which was involved in the global exchange of goods at an early stage. It was on this foundation that, around 1800, the region became a heartland of industrialisation developments in Europe. In the early 20th century, Saxony was the region with the highest proportion of industrial value creation and industrial workers. With its population educated in the fields of technology and culture, diverse small and medium-sized enterprises and as a sales market, Saxony was an attractive place for entrepreneurs, business founders and those looking for work. As a traditional export region, Saxony’s economy was especially dependent on free competition, the global market and, not least, peaceful cooperation.
Two world wars, three planned economies between 1914 and 1990, disconnection from the global market, the abolition of free enterprise and increasing modernisation deficits meant that Saxony fell behind over the course of the 20th century. Nevertheless, despite the drastic structural changes experienced by the economy and society, Saxony continues to see itself as an industrial economy following the introduction of the market economy in 1990. Its industrial heritage forms the basis for continuing the industrial age.
All of Saxony has been permanently shaped by commerce and industry. The cultural landscape of coal and steel is evident in the Erzgebirge. Industrial landscapes in the river valleys of the Erzgebirge foothills and in the old commercial landscapes of Lusatia and the Vogtland, industrial sites and cities, and also the landscape transformed by agriculture and mining (especially of lignite and uranium), are the result of an industrial history spanning more than 200 years. The international importance of Saxony’s industrial heritage is demonstrated by the inclusion of “Idea and Practice: organising shared interests in cooperatives” in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List in November 2016 and in the UNESCO world heritage application “Mining Cultural Landscape Erzgebirge/Krušnohoří”.
Mining, textile crafts and hydropower were decisive factors for the industrial heritage of south-western Saxony. The cotton spinning mill in Harthau, near Chemnitz, dating back to 1799 is considered to be Saxony’s first factory building. Diverse textile manufacturing allowed the region to develop into the centre of the German textile industry in the 19th century. Textile factories shaped small towns and villages, but textile production also stimulated the development of mechanical engineering and supply industries. Renowned manufacturers of steam and textile machines and machine tools emerged from repair workshops and, at the beginning of the 20th century, vehicle and business machine engineering companies.
Chemnitz was shaped by industry like no other Saxon city and therefore known as the “Manchester of Saxony”. Engineering, along with the textile industry, had a defining influence on the economic structure, which was subsequently shaped by office technology and vehicle manufacturing. Other regional focal points developed with the help of metal processing in Freiberg and Aue, musical instrument and lace production in the Vogtland, paper and wood processing in the river valleys and finally precision mechanics, electronics and household appliance engineering. Hydropower was superseded as an energy source by the black coal of the Zwickau-Oelsnitzer mining region starting in the mid-19th century and, from the early 20th century onwards, electricity generated from lignite became more important.
The Chemnitz region continues to be the most important industrial region in Saxony. The economy and vocational training are closely linked to this day thanks to leading technical training institutions in Freiberg, Chemnitz, Mittweida and Zwickau.
Its central location in the middle of Europe, good transport links and a tradition of trade fairs determined Leipzig’s development into the core of the central German economic area. A considerable consumer goods industry established itself alongside trade and transport with food industry companies and musical instrument production. Leipzig’s global reputation as a publishing centre was based on a unique concentration of businesses producing and trading in printed materials.
Engineering companies, foundries, chemical plants and large textile factories settled in Leipzig from the mid-19th century onwards thanks to excellent transport links. The planned industrial quarter Plagwitz in the west of the city was built on the initiative of the entrepreneur Carl Heine. Exemplary urban restructuring was initiated here after 1990.
Important agricultural machinery factories established links to the surrounding areas. The innovative agricultural region was the site of the food industry. Exploitation of lignite deposits began at the end of the 19th century. Large-scale mining and the lignite and chemical industries defined the region economically and environmentally from that point onwards. The post-industrial leisure landscape “Neuseenland” was created in the south of Leipzig after 1990 once the environmental damage and encroachments on surrounding landscape had been remedied.
National transport interchanges make Leipzig an attractive location for automotive manufacturing and logistics companies today. Educational and research institutes, culture and the free spaces created by the structural changes after 1990 attract young creative types, scientists and new businesses.
Dresden’s economy was initially influenced by its status as a seat of royal power and the associated demands of its wealthy citizens. The city, for a long time the largest in Saxony, saw companies of national significance dealing in consumer and luxury goods and the food, drink and tobacco industries establishing themselves as a result. At the end of the 19th century, science-based industries settled in the central Elbe valley around Dresden. Chemical industry companies specialising in pharmaceutical and hygiene products, electrotechnical companies and the optical goods and precision mechanics industries defined the industrial structure.
The other surrounding areas were home to heavy industry, engineering, mining and watch manufacturers. The Deutsche Werkstätten company, based in Dresden-Hellerau since 1910, pioneered a new culture of products and work. The Technical University of Dresden remains important for innovative companies and the training of a highly-qualified workforce.
Lusatia, in the east of Saxony, was and continues to be shaped by the textile industry, engineering, vehicle manufacturing and the food industry. Lignite mining in Lusatia has shaped the landscape since the end of the 19th century and forms the basis of the large-scale electrical economy.
The Route of Industrial Heritage in Saxony
The Route of Industrial Heritage gives us living witnesses to an era in which Saxony was the leading industrial region in Germany. The previous importance of Saxony as the strongest economy in Germany can be experienced along the route, either in living museums or production sites which remain active to this day. The mining, textile, vehicle, transport, food, drink and tobacco, printing and paper sectors are what stand out from the varied range of industries which once existed. Other industrial sectors and superb architectural achievements are also prominent.