TALES FROM KAPPEL (Satis Shroff)
The 4th of December is celebrated as Barbara Day after the saint who is regarded as a protector of the hillfolk in Germany and elsewhere in countries where people work in mines.
According to a legend from the 4th century, the holy Barbara is said to have to have died a gruesome death as a martyr. She is regarded as one of the fourteen helpers-in-need and worshipped as the protector of the miners. In Freiburg-Kappel, the worship of St.Barbara dates back to 1146 at Eichberg in Litterweiler, which lies to the east of Freiburg, and has been documented in a certificate dedicated to the holy Barbara. It is said that the name-giving is closely related to the mining industry in Kappel.
In 1967 a kindergarden was built in Kappel and it received the name St. Barbara. Among the miners of Kappel the Barbara Day has always been regarded as a special day. This tradition has been documented in a certificate by a priest named J. Vitt who composed the lyrics of the St. Barbara (Miner’s song) as well as the popular Kappeler song. Both songs were composed in the year 1936. We, the men’s choir of the MGV-Kappel ‘Liederkranz’ sang both songs at the inauguration ceremony of the Bergbau exhibition at the Kappel’s town council, located in the Grosstal Strasse 45. The project manager was our good friend Ernst Ehemann, who’s father-in-law Joseph Sumser gave his knowledge about the mining-industry to Ernst.
The work in the mine was, and still is, extremely dangerous. On St. Barbara’s Day the people remember the miners who lost their lives in the recesses of the Schauinsland and Kappeler hillsides where mining was done. The life-span of the miners were short and the miner’s pulmonary disease was dreaded.
The miners felt that they were responsible for the well-being of each other. They organised themselves since 750 years in an association called ‘Knappschaft’ in German and showed the solidarity and mutual support when someone was ill, couldn’t go to work, due to gerontological reasons or the near and dear one of the miners were left behind, families that were in need and comrades who’d died in the mines.
Much like the ‘guthi’ among the people of Nepal, the Kappeler ‘Knappschaft’ is the oldest social security organisation and became a model for the social insurance in Germany later. Nevertheless, it must be mentioned that not all people who are in emergency situations , ill and old are not sufficiently insured. Yes, in a modern country like Germany there are people who are impoverished, especially the children and single-mothers. It is hoped that those responsible in politics care about a real solidarity and assistance for the needy and the underdogs of the German society.
Our planet earth bares an endless treasure in its soil such as ores, coal, minerals, uranium, salts, oil, precious stones, gold and silver. The miners have been bringing these and other treasures since centuries out of Mother Nature’s womb. But how Man uses these treasures is another matter, for the human being tends to be unfortunately infected with greed, exploitation, misuse and extravagance which in turn brings danger to peace, tolerance, miteinander (togetherness). There is always the temptation of accumulating wealth at the cost of others. We can only hope that Man will make good use of the treasures that Mother Nature bestows upon us with more responsibility and respect for ecology and natural resources.
If you come to Kappel’s Schauinsland school you can see a mural on its front entrance painted by Benedikt Schaufelberger. It depicts three miners in their overalls, helmets and mining implements. A stylish blonde housewife sits barefoot near her playful children. The school was built after the World War II. There was a lot to be done in Germany in those days and the motto was: carpe diem and ‘trust morning only a little.’ The school’s first Hausmeister, who looked after the school’s non-academic sector, was a miner named Emil Krauss.
In a book about Kappel and its history with the title ‘Kappel im Tal’ Erwin Steiert devotes a chapter on: the Bergbau in Kappel from 1872 till1954. He mentions: ‘ Unfortunately there’s a Bergmuseum neither in Hofsgrund nor in Kappel.’ But the Kultur und Kunstverein has made a start with Ernst Ehemann as a pioneer of the Miner’s Museum in Kappel’s town council. Perhaps a day might come when Kappel has enough money from Freiburg and Stuttgart to build a museum for its sons who dedicated their lives in the mines of Schauinsland and Kappel in their search and excavation for lead, zinc, gold and silver.
Ernst Ehemann was of the opinion that the museum should be made known throughout the world and children should be motivated to view the exhibits dealing with the mining industry, because those are the roots of the people of Kappel and Schauinsland. To this end, the MGV-Kappel sang the olde miner’s songs. If it hadn’t been for the silver mines in Schauinsland, Kappel and Zähringen, Freiburg would have remained an impoverished town. The wealth brought to Freiburg through the mines in the mountains was used to build the Freiburger cathedral (Münster). Today some 303,000 visitors come to the Schauinsland. Niklas von Gayling (FDP), a landlord and castle-owner from Ebnet praised the good relationship between Ebnet and kappel. Since the days of mining are almost over in this part of the Black Forest, Schauinsland’s future lies in the water it delivers to Freiburg’s growing population.
On display at the museum were: a boring-machine from 1820, a St. Barbara statue as a holy figure from the Black Forest, a Bergman’s parade uniform in black studded with brass buttons on the breast and lots of mining equipment. In front of the town council there was also a rusty mining-wagon for the ore-transport on railway tracks.
In my head was the haunting melody of the miner’s song (Bergmannslied) depicting the fear and rising lonesomeness in the pitch dark tunnels and shafts and the thoughts of his beloved:
Und da unten
In den tiefem, finstern Schacht
-bei der Nacht,
da denk ich dein.