lich-steinstrass at Hambach opencast lignite mine

In the 1980s I had been a trainee at an advertising agency that produced media for the “Kreissparkasse” bank in the administrative districts Dueren and Heinsberg. One of my favorite tasks was to supply all bank offices with the newest advertising posters – first of all not because of the professional aspect. It was more the fact that every three months I could cruise across both districts for five days. Time in which I have learned so much about the regions and in which I sometimes had been at places that do not exist anymore today. Two offices I had to support were at places where the Hambach opencast lignite mine is located now. During my three-year apprenticeship, I visited these spots twelve times and because of this rhythm, I saw them crumble and disappear as in a time-lapse. One of the offices had been near the little village Lich-Steinstrass [50° 55′ 40.375″ N 6° 30′ 24.692″ E ] and one day I heard that a nameless field some kilometers further few from the original village got the title “Lich-Steinstrass” too [50° 55′ 47.95″ N 6° 22′ 45.264″ E]. With the money and in the imagination of Rheinbraun/RWE this should be the place where the future expropriated people could fulfill their individual architectural dreams. In my memory, the new Lich-Steinstrass had started then like an architecture catalog of possibilities and impossibilities – a village with so many different house models, facades colors and so indifferent materials. Is homeland a factual matter which we can buy? This a question that comes up even today in 2023 at Lützerath. But this part of my post is not the reason why I remember Lich-Steinstrass so well. The story is that someday I had been on a visit to the bank offices near Lich-Steinstrass when I heard that the demolition of St. Andreas and St. Matthias Church and the relocation of the cemetery would just take place. Coincidence I had a cheap snapshot fix focus camera with me and a B&W film in it with 5-6 unexposed frames. So I could make the few following TIME:LOCKS. Only some years later in 1989, RWE completed the job and since then Lich-Steinstrass is just a memory.

Above are original newspaper articles about the demolition of St. Andreas and St. Matthias church. Translation: “Many former or still living inhabitants of Lich-Steinstrass watched this macabre spectacle with weeping hearts: a dull bang sealed the fate of the parish church St. Andreas and Matthias; the bell tower burst first into two parts, then the still standing rest leaned aside and collapsed. In the near future, the lignite excavators will be used there to finally destroy the village.”

More information about Lich-Steinstrass via Wikipedia or via the article “Leben unterm Bagger” / “life under the excavator” from ZEIT ONLINE.

At last a photo I took in the winter of the same year: in the foreground a small farm, in the background the overburdened mountain on whose shoulder an overburdened excavator can be seen. 12 months after I took the photo the farm had disappeared.

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