Living in the Ruhr - district in former times and today

Grandma Auguste, mother Ilse
and I, Joachim Kossmann

A family of the neighbourhood in Roehlinghausen
(at the time belonging to Gelsenkirchen, later it became a part of
Wanne - Eickel, today Herne)
Origin: My private photo - archives

Only the upper classes could efford to pay for such photos during the time of Kaiser Wilhelm
Origin: My private photo archives
Kaiser Wilhelm - monument at the Hohensyburg, Dortmund
This lady was surely so strong as she looked like:
Origin: My private photo - archives
An officer of the German navy
Origin: My private photo - archives
The military - especially the navy - was highly respected
Origin: My private photo - archives
The Nazis loved the pathos even more than
the fans of the Kaiser
Reproduction of a certificate of discharge papers of the German Wehrmacht (military)
Origin: My private family - archives
The Hitlerjugend (HJ) (Hitler´s youth) at a funny game
Origin: My private photo - archives
The Reichsarbeitsdienst (Worker´s service of the Reich), Germany had to stand to attention
Origin: My private photo - archives
The picture of Fuehrer Adolf Hitler at the wall was obligatory.
Origin: My private photo - archives
The house of our mother was reconstructed already in 1953, but mother Ilse could only life with grandma Auguste and her two young kids in the low cellar - room.
Origin: my private photo - archives
The welfare everybody had waited for a long time should come: The fist car a Volkswagen convertible with 36 SAE HP and 1,2 l cylinder capacity. People drove with such cars long ways up to Italy and Austria via the Alpine mountains.
Origin: The color - photo of 1957 my private photo - archives.
The first tv - set was a really attraction in the year of 1957. The boys of the neighbourhood came and
wanted to watch tv.
Origin: The color - photo from 1957 my private photo - archives.
School of architecture Holzminden, winter - term 1938/39
My father Herrmanngraduated from this school. One time he had nearly just failed the examen because of his poor results in the Nazi - political ideology lessons.
Origin: My private photo - archives
My father Herrmann (at the left side on the photo) worked from 1047 to 1967 for the town of Wanne - Eickel. He had a lot of work in order to rebuild the town.
Origin: My private photo archives
New industries settled. The Opel Kadett (Photo modell 1971) from the General Motors Corporation was build in Bochum since 1965.
Love to soccor will ever be unbroken in the Ruhr - district.



Who did peole live in the Ruhr - district in former times?

Grandma Auguste (born in 1903) and mother Ilse (born in 1925) told me a lot of stories happened in former times. Grandpa Alfred Pette (born in 1900) died when he was young and so I could never see him. He was native of a very old tribe of the Ruhr - district.

(1871 - 1919)

Prussia had won the war of 1870/71 against the hated hereditary enemy France, Alsace - Lorraine was annexed, and the German Reich was founded in 1871. And now the German Reich should develope from an agricultural land to a migthy imperialistic industrial state during a few decades.

There were more than enough cheap and motivated workers who often had to labor under inhuman conditions. The world market was overstocked with cheap hand made products from the German Reich, and so the Reich became a serious contestant for the already established industrial nations especially Gerat Britain. In order to protect their products the Englishmen enforced that German goods had to be fitted with the sign "MADE IN GERMANY".

The work in the coal mines of the Ruhr - district was hard and dangerous. Accidents with fatal ends caused by stone - avalanches or firedamp - explosions often passed the order of the day. The fine coal - dust the coal miners had to inhale during their underground - workings destroyed their healths. Most of them suffered from their lungs (silicosis). Coal miners died 15 year more early than average people.

The early capitalistic stadards of living were hard, the welfare remained to be otained the the upper classes. The Families had got a lot of kids. The income was often only sufficent to satisfy the absolute minimum subsistence level. From time to time kids had to use the same beds and clothes of the elder brothers and sisters. The nutrtion and the medical service were not ever enough. The education was string and authroritarian. The corporal punishment was quite usual at school, teachers and clergymen were uncritisable authorities.
The birthday of Kaiser Wilhelm on January 27th was always a special festive event:
Grandma Auguste sang this song:
"Der Kaiser ist ein guter Mann,
er wohnet in Berlin,
und wenn ich heut´ Zeit hätt´,
dann führ´ ich zu ihm hin."

(The Kaiser is a good man,
he ´s living in Berlin,
and if I had time,
I would visit him.)

But people liked their Kaiser Wilhelm at all because the German Reich was loocking forward to a glory future. "Germany´s future is lying upon the water!" ...and it was the fact that the sun never rised in the German Reich. Colonies were founded since 1884. The Kilimandscharo in German - East - Africa (today Tansania) was the highest mountain of Germany, and the German Reich and the USA had even a common border at that time.

Sailor suits for boys became in fashion. The patriotic feaver touched even great parts of people from the working classes.

The borgeoisie in the proletarian Ruhr - district engaged himself very intensive to prove his patriotism. Momuments in order to honor "KAISER WILHELM AND HIS HEROS" and the chancellor of the Reich Bismarck were built in a big number in all towns of the Ruhr - district.

All classes of the population were looking forward to better times and a good future.

Soldiers were enthisiastic and optimistic when the First World War started in 1914: "AUF WIEDERSEHEN AUF DEM BOULEVARD, MIR JUCKT DIE SÄBELSPITZE". (Goodbye on the boulevard, my saber - point is rubbing). The churches promised everybody who was willing to die as a hero for the fatherland the reception in the paradise.
Our great - grandma bestowed enthisiasticly her golden rings for the war industry and received as the thank of the fatherland an iron plate with the legend: "GOLD GAB ICH FÜR EISEN". (I gave gold and received iron).

The rising industry of the Ruhr - district needed a lot of workmen you couldn´t find under the origin inhabitants still for a long time. And so especially polish workmen were drafted. Their legal integration was possible without any problems, because most of the Polish people had already got the citizenship of the German Reich, because they came from Western - Prussia (Masuria) which belonged to the German Reich at that time. A Polish didn´t exist at all at that time. Poland was devided between the German Reich, the Royal and Imperial Monarchy of Austria - Hungaria and the zaristic Russia.

The integration of Polish people in the Ruhr - district was not possible without any problems, but there was still enoug work and lebensraum for everybody. Bottrop became after Warzwawa the second largest Polisj speaking town of the world. The first newspaper in my home town Wanne - Eickel was published in Polish language. There were people in the Ruhr - district who only spoke Polish still in the 1930s.

SUM TOTAL: The livin at the time of Kaiser Wilhelm was hard, but everybody was optimistic and was looking forward hoepefully to better time. And so people found their fortunge in the Reich of the Kaiser.

And now we make a revolution! But what kind of revolution? The putsch of Adolf Hitler failed, his party was forbidden. But there were other people who wanted to develope a communistic Germany simular as in the just new founded Sovjet - Union. The reactionary powers in Germany wanted to get back their dethroned Kaiser Wilhelm who lived intermediately in the Dutch exile where he sould die embittered 20 years later. There were still nobody who was satisfied, everybody wanted to establish his meaning without paying regard to losses.
The chaos of the 1920s took his run. The economical structure of the country was damaged. Everybody became a millionaire by the inflation. The US $ had the worth of one trillion Marks (a "1" and 12 zeros).

Grandma Auguste liked to tell about the occupation of the Ruhr - district by France in the year of 1923. After her job as a srubwoman in Wuppertal - Elberfeld had failed because the master of the house supposed to waylay her, the France occupation - power forced grandma Auguste to work at the campus in Bickern in the near of Roehlinghausen. The French soldiers tormented our grandma: "Na los, Frollein, ma tüchtich arbeiten (let´s go, Fraeulein, get on working in a proper way)", a French soldiers always said.

But at the other other side there was no reason for our Grandma Auguste to lamentate, because it was sure that she already belonged to the privileged class. Grandfather Alfred was always employed and as an overman on the coal mine UNSER FRITZ (our Fritz) he was earning a lot of money. And so the new married couple could move to a luxury flat in a new building in Roehlinghausen: Sanitary fittings and electric light were present and soon the first Volksempfaenger (the radio for the common people) was bought.

But the fortunge of the 6 million unemployed people was very hard. A lot of them had to suffer hunger and had to resort to begging, and this circumstances werde the big chance for rat - catchers like Adolf Hitler.

But the Nazis had a lot of problems to make their way. The SPD (the socialdemocratoc party of Germany) had nowhere an absolutely majority in the Ruhr - district till 1933 and a lot of towns got communistic mayors. Our mother rembered herself in 1970: "At the former times communistic people were good and nice men, there is no compare to the GDR (German Democratic Republic, East Germany till 1990) of nowadays," But the correct cummists fighted more against the also correct SPD and neglected the awful Nazis.

The Nazi movement seemed to be an alternative for a lot of people. Mother Ilse dreamed to emigrate to the "New German East" (Balticum or Ukraine) and to etablish a farm and found a family there. She became a BDM leader (BDM = Bund deutscher Maedchen, Federation of German Girls) and was a very engaged person. Grandpa Alfred never spoke about political matters, he feared that his own daughter could tell something undesired.

People often feared their own relatives, their neigbours, their colleagues. But even the most strongest reviewers of the Naziism conceded the success of the Nazis. "Der Führer hat Ordnung geschaffen (the leader (Hitler) made the things all right", you could read at that time in a Swedish school - book.

The Nazis abolished the unemployment by actions of procurement of work and a modest welfare rised. Every workmen sould have been able to afford his own Volkswagen - I do not need to translate "Volkswagen") a few years later. The Ruhr - district got his own autobahn (highway) already in 1938 nuilding without the help of great machnies by the hand of workmen. (Autobahn Oberhausen - Hannover).

Even Jewish people feared in the beginning of the Naziism that the Nazi were antisemitical. Jewish people had to suffer a little bit of antisemitism (nearly) always and everywhere they lived. But nobody thought the evil things that should come...

A Jewish clothing sales - room was shut down in Wanne - Eickel in the middle of the 1930s because the manager wanted to emigrate to America. Grandma Auguste forced her obstinated daughter Ilse to the dealer in order to buy as cheap as possible winter - overcoat. Our mother Ilse got a very good coat for the low price of only 5 Reichsmarks and she should could wear it for a very long time. Next to the door of the store a SA man patrolled:"Schämen Sie sich nicht, als deutsche Frau in einem jüdischen Geschäft zu kaufen? Don´t you be ashemed as a German woman to buy goods in a Jewish store?" Grandma Auguste leaved the place very quickly, she wasn´t interested in political affairs at all. She collected money for the NS - Winterhilfswerk (social help for people who suffered the cold) for nothing during the war in order to prove her seeming patriotic way of thinking. She got a sealed up collecting tin and a list of distributors. If there was somebody who wasn´t willing to pay the secretary of the NSDAP visited him at the next day and lectured him.

Our mother Ilse remaind to become antisemitic in a latent way for the rest of her life although a Jewish doctor had preservede her life when she was a kid.

The inhabitants of the Ruhr - district had to suffer a lot of air blitzes during the war because of the urgent industry. The great - grandma didn´t dare to leave the bunker. Mother Ilse reported that one time a horse was killed in the street by a shell - splinter. Somebody slaughted the horse and distributed the meet to the passers by. Mother Ilse took the bloody meet into her pinafore and brought it to her grandma who was very happy.

But even ordinary chips became a delicious pruduct. Mother Ilse reported how the stick of the pan broke out and the grat - randma collected the potaties from the dirty ground.

Grandma Auguste was employed in a compulsory work at the bread manufacturing firm Ruwe in Wanne - Eickel during the war. She delivered bread up to Wuppertal - Elberfeld during the first years of the war, and later, when the attacks should become stronger, she and her car driver drove only to Essen - Bergeborbeck. The delivery truck was fitted with a gas operator because it was necessary to save gas and diesel for the Wehrmacht (German military). But at this way grandma Auguste always had enough nutritiond during the war she could even change food against cigarrettes. But after the war grandma Auguste became unemployed, because she was catched in the very act by steeling some foods. But nearly everybody did such things at that time..

But even during the hardest times the German state took in a very careful way care about the entertainment of the population. The Volksempfaenger (the radio for the common people) was not only a good propaganda drive for the Naziism. But soon the cinemas offered the first color movies of the world (The US Technicolor system used black and white materials at this time), and the first regulary television emissions of the world started in Berlin and later also in the occupied Paris. "The times are hard, but we ´ll get the final victory. Therfore we have to work and suffer, at this kind people thougt during the war.

Mother Ilse and grandma auguste often lamented that they had at lweast no suffer hunger during the war. But after the British occupation forces had took over the power and became responsible for the providing of the nutrition, shortages of deliveries had often to be griped.

A relative died onfractur of his lungs when he tried to enter a passing train by a hoarding trip.

Old small coal mines were reopened in the southern part of the Ruhr - district in order to get at least some coals to heat the houses. The turn off of electricity and gas was quite normal. A big part of the number of the houses were destructed by the effects of the war. One flat was often used by some families. A family of the neighbourhood even used a mortuary.

Money was short and grandma Auguste received only 40,-- DM pension per month. The first husband of mother Ilse died and mother Ilse had to rebuild her destroyed house with her little widow - pension.

We cannot imagine today the affords people had to make in that time to reconstruct the destroyed country. Compliment!

The Ruhr coal mining made its last rising during the 1950s. But than the Ruhr - district changed quickly and efficient his face. The cheap oil made the Ruhr - coal unrentable. The coal sems were partly exploited, the profession of a coal miner became to be unattractive.

The Ruhr - district got to be more clean. In former times it was not possible to dry white shirts in the garden on the line because of the soot of the coke - ovens. But the sky sould became blue again. The Ruhr - district became a normal region.

A lot of people left the Ruhr - district in order to find a better work elsewhere. So the population of Wanne - Eickel sank from 120.000 in the year of 1965 up to about 90.000 today.

The quality of living should become very better in the Ruhr - district.

But the Ruhr - district has lost some of its old fascination and charme.

...but there is a thing that does not ever change, the love of people to soccor will ever be unbroken.

Schalke 04 is an institution, and Gelsenkirchen will become a town like occupied by legions when in the year of 2004 the 100 year anniversary of Schalke 04 will take place.

My grandpa Alfred used to go on food to the Schalke stadion before the second world war, up and down about 20 km. But soccor was not so hardly commercial at that time. The purest fans of today surely sorrow this old times, when real idealism and enthusiasm made the play.
Keine so bedeutende Rolle mehr spielt jedoch heute die Zucht von Brieftauben. Es soll zwar noch etwa 40.000 Züchter im Ruhrgebiet geben, aber das Interesse vor allem der jüngeren Generation an diesem Hobby läßt wohl nach.

The Ruhr - district of today is no longer a cultual desert. A lot of theaters invite people and one doesn´t only remember the profan work but engages oneself for the spirit.