A Medieval German Village Destroyed by Lignite Mining

INVERTED AMERICAN FLAGIn the village of Heuersdorf, an American flag was flown for years upside down, referring to the signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to property according to the flag code of the United States of America, the homeland of the owners of the MIBRAG mining corporation until 2009: NRG Energy, Inc. and URS Corporation.

HEUERSDORF IN GERMANYMIBRAG has evicted the villagers in order to extract some 52 million tons of lignite from the United Schleenhain Mine for a power plant at Lippendorf, near Leipzig (about 200 kilometers south of Berlin). The earthmoving task inherent to mining is equivalent to excavating the original Suez Canal (74 million cubic meters 1859 - 69) more than twenty times. Fundamental questions on the ecological impact of the project have yet to be resolved.

Ther were once more than 40 registered historic structures in Heuersdorf, including two magnificent churches. Landschaft Heuersdorf The Emmaus Church dates back to the 12th Century and is thought to be the oldest fortified church in Saxony. The Tabor Church was built after 1866 on the site of an earlier church that probably dated to the 14th Century. After part of the neighboring village of Ramsdorf had been burned down during the Hussite Wars, a stately farm house belonging to a local knight was transported to Heuersdorf. It was erected in the southern part of the community known at that time as Hermsdorff maior. Heuersdorf and Großhermsdorf, the subsequent name of the southern settlement, were pillaged during the Thirty Years War in 1632.

The farm houses, some over 300 years old, document changing patterns of agricultural practice. Before its destruction, Heuersdorf contained a number of traditional three-sided farmyards with housing, barn, and stables. Most prominent has been the building ensemble ascribed to nobility of the late Middle Ages. The stately manor house that now serves as the town hall was erected the 19th Century by the village's largest landowner. The most recent structures had been built after World War II in the course of farm collectivization. Heuersdorf was thus a unique architectural monument spanning eight centuries of German history. Yet many unoccupied homes were already suffering from disuse before the evacuation of the community.

The endangered status of Heuersdorf is treated in the article “Historic Heuersdorf”, appearing in the compendium Heritage At Risk 2004/2005 of the International Council on Monuments and Sites. Despite stringent German laws on the protection of historic monuments and sites, all buildings in Heuersdorf have been victimized by mining excavation. While the venerable Emmaus Church has been moved to the city of Borna, all other buildings were torn down.

TAKE BACK YOUR GOLDThe 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.

 POPULATION OF HEUERSDORFSince June 2009, Heuersdorf has been completely depopulated. Yet its struggle to resist this fate was unparalleled in German history.

Heuersdorf succeeded in overturning a parliamentary act intended to destroy the village on July 14, 2000. The Heuersdorf Law (Heuersdorf-Gesetz), which had been passed by the Parliament of Saxony in 1998 to achieve compulsory resettlement in accordance with the Federal Mining Law (Berggesetz) , was declared invalid by the Supreme Constitutional Court of Saxony. Many mining regulations were instituted in the 1930's to enable the appropriation of private property as a wartime expedient. Similar laws continued to be employed in both parts of the divided Germany after 1945, imposing involuntary eviction on thousands of households in the path of lignite mining. Although theselegal provisions are still in force, the Federal Constitution prescribes a specific parliamentary act (such as the Heuersdorf Law) for dissolving any community refusing resettlement.

On November 12, 2003, the Supreme Administrative Court of Saxony likewise declared the Lignite Plan for the United Schleenhain Mine to be invalid on formal grounds. Heuersdorf had thus won a second legal victory against government and mining interests.

Arguing that the regional economy was critically dependent on the lignite beneath Heuersdorf, the State Assembly of Saxony (Landtag) passed a second Heuersdorf Law on April 22, 2004 for eliminating the village. The lignite reserves in question actually constitute only about three percent of the total tonnage already licensed for mining in the region. A lawsuit filed by the Heuersdorf Town Council to contest the law was rejected by the Constitutional Court on November 25, 2005. The community was irrevocably deprived of its administrative authority and incorporated into the neighboring city of Regis-Breitingen.

You can find out more about the situation in the village by downloading the Brief Facts document, reading the information below, and talking with our international supporters.

 DAVID AND GOLIATHTo travel to the former site of Heuersdorf, see the route planner page, which also contains maps of the village and the region.

We also invite you to browse through the German pages of our website. A translation assistant is provided by www.google.com/language_tools?hl=en.


Heuersdorf, German Energy Policy and Climate Change

Heuersdorf as a Model Community

The Virtual Power Station

Make Use of Ecological Advantages

Air Quality in Eastern Germany

CO2 Reduction in Coal Power Generation

Germany's Strategic Transition to a Renewable Energy Society

Renewable Energy - Made in GermanyRenewable Energy - Made in Germany


Friends of the Earth in the western German lignite mining regions

European Council for the Village and Small Town ECOVAST

Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings SPAB

Staffordshire-Saxony Connection

The Heat Is On

Contacts in Heuersdorf:

Mayor Horst Bruchmann

Energy Coordinator Jeffrey Michel

Related Links:

Mining and Power Production

MIBRAG the mining company that has destroyed Heuersdorf

CEZ Prague, Czech Republic

J&T Group Prague, Czech Republic

Vattenfall Europe AG the operator and 50 percent owner of the Lippendorf power station near Heuersdorf

EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg AG Karlsruhe, 50 percent owner of Lippendorf

Vattenfall AB the Swedish parent corporation of Vattenfall Europe AG

“Status and Impacts of the German Lignite Industry” study from the Swedish NGO Secretariat on Acid Rain

“Digging to Development” Economic Effects of Mining

Lignite (Brown Coal) in Germany by Friends of the Earth (BUND)

Lignite Mining in the Rhineland by BUND Northrhine-Westfalia

The Garzweiler Lignite Mine by Meena Menon for planets-voice.org

IfE Leipzig Energy Institute

IEA International Energy Agency

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