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Fig. 1. Wreath-laying ceremony on the 60th anniversary of the mining disaster at the Luisenthal mine. Foto: RAG (Becker/Bredel)

Wreath-laying ceremony at the Luisenthal memorial

On 7th February 1962, at 7:45, a huge explosion 535 m under the ground shook the Alsbachfeld section of the Luisenthal mine. 299 miners lost their lives, many were injured. The 1962 Luisenthal mining disaster is deeply rooted in the memory of Saarland. The Glück auf miners’ association was founded in 1963, to commemorate the victims each year.

This year will be the 60th anniversary of the event. In a very dignified setting, representatives from the mountain, hut and miners’ associations, the Saarland regional government, the Saarland parliament as well as representatives from the RAG-Stiftung, RAG Aktien-gesellschaft and other invited guests, commemorated the miners who died that day (Figure 1).

“On this day, 60 years ago, Luisenthal saw the worst mining disaster in the history of the Saar mining industry. The entire region mourned. This day has etched itself in the collective memory of Saarland and has caused the people of Saarland to come closer together”, says Tobias Hans, Prime Minister of Saarland.

“Luisenthal and its devastating mining disaster remains in all of our memories. But the danger of forgetting is real. We are very grateful to the Glück Auf mining association of Luisenthal and all traditional associations for preserving the heritage of the coal mining industry in the Saar region”, explains Bärbel Bergerhoff-Wodopia, member of the Board of Management of the RAG-Stiftung, Essen/Germany. “However, the story of Luisenthal is not only the story of a disaster. It is also the story of incredible solidarity, of helpfulness and of miners’ camaraderie. In the same month as the disaster, at the end of February 1962, Saarland and Saarbergwerke AG founded the Stiftung Bergmannshilfswerk Luisenthal miners’ relief organisation. The willingness to help was tremendous; very quickly, the Stiftung was able to financially support the survivors and the bereaved”, added Bergerhoff-Wodopia. She affirmed, “The RAG-Stiftung is very closely connected to Saarland. We support many young people and support them with scholarships and vocational training.”

Peter Schrimpf, Chairman of the Board of Management of RAG Aktien-gesellschaft, Essen/Germany, was deeply moved by the great compassion shown. “Mining disasters belong to the darkest chapters of mining history. They have brought unbelievable suffering to families, communities and the entire country – and have left deep scars”, he stressed in his speech. But out of this suffering we have also seen some positives. In processing the tragedy in Luisenthal, safety in the German coal mining industry has developed significantly. “We feel particularly indebted to the miners who lost their lives above and below ground. The memory of the Luisenthal mining disaster is therefore particularly important in the subsequent use of the mining site.” A dignified place of commemoration is to be created near the Richard shafts. A place that bears witness to the sacrifice made by these people.

“Solidarity, attentiveness, a sense of responsibility and human connection are the qualities that have always characterised the work and interaction of mine workers”, stressed Susanne Hardies, chair of the general works council at RAG. “Let’s stay committed to these values and honour the memory of the 299 colleagues who died 60 years ago.”

Christiane Blatt, Mayor of Völklingen, gave a stirring description of reports from contemporary witnesses. “The town of Völklingen is shaped by coal and steel. We have experienced difficult times. Now, however, it’s also important to look forward, without forgetting the legacy of the past.” She called on the regional government to get involved in developing a new use for the former Luisenthal mine. As long as the city council approved, a cooperative agreement with RAG would be signed to this effect in the near future. (RAG/Si.)