IN THE RUHR - DISTRICT
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.
THE TIME OF KAISER
(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
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
The birthday of Kaiser Wilhelm on January 27th was always a special
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.
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
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 REPUBLIC OF
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
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
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 THIRD REICH
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
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.
TIME AFTER THE SECOND WORLD 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!
...AND NOW WE GOT
THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY!
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
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 -
But the Ruhr - district has lost some of its old fascination and
...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.