Church removal: coal mining, cultural heritage and social cohesion

Heuersdorf  was a village in the Leipzig lowlands, Saxony, Germany. The area of the village belongs to the city of Leipzig since 2004. After a long but ultimately futile resistance of the inhabitants since 1935 the village was evacuated and devastated. See bellow the description, taken from www.heuersdorf.de, illustrates the struggle:

The villagers were forced to accept financial assistance offered by MIBRAG to move from Heuersdorf, since they did not have the monetary resources for resisting the evacuation by legal means. For many years, younger adults refused such enticements to leave their homeland. They were raising families and wanted to preserve the village and its community values. However, any further refusal to give up their homes would now lead to forced eviction and unendurable financial losses. Contrary to the declared intention of the state government of Saxony to keep the village community intact, people from Heuersdorf have been resettled at more than a dozen different locations. The singular interest of MIBRAG over the years was directed at coercing individual families out of the village, eroding human bonds and heightening the insecurity of those inhabitants remaining

In 2007 the regional legislature approved plans to dig up the remaining town to get at some 50 million tons of lignite, or brown coal, to supply a nearby power station. Village authorities fought the plan for years but lost their appeal in Germany’s Constitutional Court in 2005. Most of Heuersdorf’s 320 residents were resettled, most of them farmers and/or retirees. In addition to individual compensation, one important fact deserve to be remarked. An important element of the local cultural heritage was also relocated: a 700-year-old Romanesque-style stone church. As part of the negotiations, the Mibrag mining company spent $4.2 million to move the church from their original location in Heuersdorf  to the near town of Borna.

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This operation represents a good example of engineering masterpiece, but also of cultural heritage conservation. It is also an example of how social cohesion is linked to such heritage. Any threat to this heritage is, therefore, a threat to the community itself:

Reference

Die große Reise einer kleinen Kirche; The long journey of a little church” (2007). Leipziger Universitätsverlag. Leipzig.

A Holy Journey: Church Moved to Make Way for Coal Mine. (2007, October 24). Spiegel. Retrieved August 24, 2015, from http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/a-holy-journey-church-moved-to-make-way-for-coal-mine-a-513286.html

Conversation with Prof. Dr. Sigrun Kabisch, Head of the Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung (UFZ).

Heuersdorf. Geschichte und Abschied eines mitteldeutschen Dorfes. Pro Leipzig Verlag, Leipzig 2009, ISBN 978-3-936508-36-9

Socio-spatial differentiation in southern Leipzig post-mining area

Bellow it is showed the three types of communities (Kabisch, 2004) adjacent to the coal mine, now pit lakes, in the southern leizig.

Rural villages: Dreiskau-Muckern (469 inh. in 2014), Oelzchau (610 inh. in 2014), Pötzschau (374 inh. in 2014), Mölbis (515 inh. in 2014), Störmthal (512), Auenhain , Wachau, Güldengossa (394 inh. in 2014): High satisfaction with the housing conditions regarding the apartment, very high satisfaction with the local living conditions (share of respondents who would recommend a good friend to move to their community), quiet location, attractive surroundings, pleasant social atmosphere, close to future recreation areas. (TOTAL POPULATION. APPROX: 4.000 inhabitants)

These communities are characterised by a relatively large proportion of farmers and farming employees, the other inhabitants working in the mining industry. The level of qualification is relatively low, while the average age is relatively high. Others: out-migration of younger, well-educated inhabitants during the last few decades. The main burden affecting these communities was their classification as “mining protection areas”. Although this classification was abolished after 1990, the local population suddently had to face new worries such as unemployment and early retirement.

Suburbs: Markkleeberg-Ost, Grossstädteln: hight satisfaction with the local housing conditions regarding the apartment, very high satisfaction with the local living conditions (share of respondents who would recommend a good friend to move to their community), quiet location, close to the city of Leipzig, varied infraestructures, good transport links, close to future recreation area.

Relatively high level of qualifications and higher household income among the inhabitants. Urban morphology: detached family housing. Most of the employees work in the city of Leipzig. Consequently, the collapse of the brown-coal industry did not affect these inhabitants to the same extent as the residents of the other community types. No out-migration tendency.

Small towns affected by industry: Gaschwitz (671 inh. in 2014), Grossdeuben, Rötha (3,704 inh. in 2014), Espenhain (2,267 inh. in 2014): Low satisfaction with housing conditions, very low satisfaction with the local living conditions (share of respondents who would recommend a good friend to move to their community), close to the city of Leipzig, good transport links, poor infraestructures, vehicle pollution, devastated landscape, buildings in bad state of repair. TOTAL POPULATION: APPROX: 7.000 inhabitants.

Most of the inhabitants worked in the former brown-coal industry. The majority of the residents rent flats in three-or four-storey blocks owned by the industrial enterprises. In this small towns, the collapse of the brown-coal industry led to social disaster, with unemployment suddenly mushrooming. High unemployment has persisted, despite the migration of sections of the population.

Reference

Kabisch, S. (2004). Revitalisation chances for communities in post-mining landscapes. Peckiana, 3, 87-99.