After World War II, the coal and steel industry was instrumental for the reconstruction of Germany, and brought prosperity as well as an economic future to the Ruhr district. For over three decades, the region was a place to which people from all over Europe and the Middle East moved to find work and a better life for themselves and their families. Consequently, this migration led to the formation of a local multi-ethnic and multicultural society. Growing up in this melting pot of numerous languages, cultures, religions and cuisines was an important asset for my personal development.
Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex
Form the late sixties on, however, the regional heavy industry faced severe economic difficulties, and thousands of people lost their work. Growing up in the seventies and eighties, I witnessed the doom of the coal and steel industry in first person. Over more than three decades, the cities of the region slowly drowned in unemployment and poverty, as one by one the coal mines and steel mills closed their doors. Apparently, industrial restructuring came sluggish and too late.
Apart of the devastating economic situation, the region had to deal with thousands of hectare of highly contaminated brownfield sites. Little by little, most of these zones have now been rehabilitated and converted to new uses, such as local recreation ares, event venues, or industrial museums. The most interesting sites include the Zollverein coal mine industrial complex, UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001 and the discomissioned steel mill in the Landscape Park Duisburg Nord. Today many of these spots can be visited and bear testimony of a past not only full of hard work, but also camaraderie and integration.
Zollverein Shaft 1/2/8
Back view Zollverein coking plant