For centuries the region along the Saar, Lorraine and Luxembourg has been deeply influenced by the borders between them. Whereas now the area comprising the Saar, Lorraine and Luxembourg is effortlessly joined by two hyphens – Saar-Lor-Lux – in former times the borders between the three used to change ... more
For centuries the region along the Saar, Lorraine and Luxembourg has been deeply influenced by the borders between them. Whereas now the area comprising the Saar, Lorraine and Luxembourg is effortlessly joined by two hyphens – Saar-Lor-Lux – in former times the borders between the three used to change regularly at the end of wars. Nonetheless without the "Minette" (iron ore with a relatively small proportion of iron) from Lorraine it was impossible to make steel in the Saar because there were no borders underground. Iron ore deposits lay to the southwest of Luxembourg and stretched out in the direction of Nancy. Coal seams spread throughout both the Bavarian and the Prussian parts of the Saar. Later on the development of a global market for raw materials spelt the end of ore and steel in the area. That said, they still share a common industrial history and an omnipresent industrial heritage. Iron ore, coal and steel go together like the Völklinger Hütte world cultural heritage site, the Musée de la Mine in Petite Rosselle and the Industrial and Railway Park in Fond-de-Gras, Luxembourg.
The inhabitants were confronted with the challenge of both natural and political borders. The galleries in the Rischbach mine in St. Ingbert were extended underground to transport coal because the steep overground road made the journey too dangerous and expensive, and it was forbidden to deliver coal to the area across the nearby Prussian border. A steel trough carrying ships up a lift in Saint-Louis/Arzviller replaced a chain of sluices in the Rhine-Marne canal. By contrast salt mining in Marsal came to an abrupt end when a military architect by the name of Vauban transformed the town into a fortress on the orders of Louis XIV in 1699. The Franco-German war of 1870/71 resulted in further shifts in borders: the upshot was that the French village of Meisenthal where a glass merchant named Emil Gallé produced his wares now became a German village. This, however, did not prevent the patriotic Gallé from stamping his vases and bowls with the name "Nancy".
In the industrial age transcending borders made it a duty to produce superlative goods as efficiently as possible. In 1883 the first blast furnace to be erected in the region, the Völklinger Hütte, was simultaneously the largest in the Saar. In 1890 the largest beam rolling mill in the German Empire stood here. After 1945 the Petite Rosselle colliery comprising four shafts was one of the largest heavy industry sites in the whole of France. Although shaft 4 of the old Göttelborn colliery – the "White Giant" –was almost 100 metres high and 1200 metres deep, it was never really exploited to the full. Whilst the turbines on the engines of the fine mechanical workshop in the Fellenberg mill in Merzig continued, as ever, to be driven by hydraulic power.
Just as the underground treasures of nature paid no heed to political borders, so class boundaries dictated the industrial heritage of the Saar-Lor-Lux region. The architecture in and around the workers housing estates reflected the social hierarchy in the "empires" of the mill barons: these ranged from mansion to dormitory house, miner’s dwelling to manager’s villa. Such boundaries permeated right into the everyday life of the workers as can be seen by the way the housing was distributed in the old coal mine in Velsen. There workers and their families were kept apart according to their religious confessions, their family status and rank.
Industrial heritage means transcending past boundaries and other countries. The specific attraction of the museums and cultural venues in the Saar-Lor-Lux region lies in the fact that they can recount the history of coal, iron ore, steel, glass, ceramics and salt and remind visitors of a time long past.