Saturday, February 2, 2008


Heuersdorf is a small village, close to Leipzig in Eastern Germany. It has a 700-year history but will have to yield to surface coal mining by the end of the year 2008. Most of the 300 inhabitants have already moved (or been moved) to neighbouring villages; so the current headcount in the village is somewhere around 50. There has been resistance by most of the inhabitants for a number of years but all legal proceedings have now been closed and it is inevitable that the village be demolished by late summer/autumn.

Last week, I visited Heuersdorf to see first hand what it looks like and to explore whether this could be a potential photo essay for me to undertake in 2008. I wouldn’t be so much interested in the energy policy questions related to Heuersdorf and whether it really makes sense to move an entire village and undertake open pit coal mining in Germany, especially given the carbon footprint that this will leave.

I’d be more interested in the concept of the loss of ‘home’ (“Heimat”), the loss of an entire village community and what this means to individual villagers.

What struck me most on my first visit was how ‘untouched’ most of the houses looked, even though they have been empty for a few weeks now. Obviously, there are also lots of traces of the beginning demolition of the houses and debris and leftovers from the move. But what’s striking is how ‘inhabited’ these houses still look, you’d almost expect someone to walk out of the houses while you are standing there: there are well-maintained gardens, curtains are adorning the windows, mailboxes are inviting letters to be put in, slides are in the garden waiting for children to play with them, and the barbecue grill is still in front of the club house of the local football club…

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