• Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution
  • Sites of Distorted Facts and Concealed Truth

Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution

Sites of Distorted Facts and Concealed Truth

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World Heritage Sites include locations that comprise imperialist invasions and slave trade, colonial rule and looting of resources, war and forced labor. The city of Potosí in Bolivia, South America, is a heritage that shows the running of silver mines under Spanish colonial rule and forced labor of the indigenous peoples. Trinidad and the Valley de los Ingenios in Cuba show the history of forced slave labor carried out on sugar cane plantations.

The West African islands of Gorée in Senegal and Kunta Kinteh in Gambia, and Stone Town in Tanzania in East Africa were bases of the European slave trade. The Forts and Castles heritage site in Ghana was also a slave trading post that was occupied from the 15th to the 18th centuries by merchants from Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, and Great Britain. Le Morne Mountain, a haven for escaped slaves known as the “Republic of Exiles” in the island country of Mauritius, southeast of Africa, is also listed as a World Heritage Site.

The Australian Convict Sites is a prison facility that was built by Great Britain, and is a heritage that explains the history of the British who moved their prisoners to the colony of Australia and used this forced mobilization to build it up. The marine city of Liverpool in England tells of immigration, the slave trade, and the Industrial Revolution. Industrial heritage sites in Germany such as coal mines and steel mills actively explain not only the Industrial Revolution, but also the history of European forced labor during World War II.


3-3-1 Potosí, Bolivia’s Silver Mining City

Potosí in Bolivia is an industrial heritage that shows the exploitation of silver mines and forced labor of the indigenous peoples under Spanish colonial rule. The silver mines in Potosí began development by Spanish colonists in the 16th century and made up 60% of the world's silver production. The scale was massive, with 140 ingenios (mills) at the time under operation that were able to smelt silver ore by generating hydraulic pressure using water flowing into 22 lagunas or artificial reservoirs.

The silver extracted using mercury amalgamation (a precipitation via mixing of salt water and mercury after which the mercury was evaporated to extract the silver left behind) was converted into silver coins that bore the seal of the Spanish Royal Mint, which was sent into circulation and brought enormous wealth to Spain.

The heritage of the Potosí silver mines shows that 13,500 indigenous peoples and 160,000 colonists were made to work in the mines in the 17th century. While numerous indigenous peoples perished in the process of mining ore and operating the mercury, the exact statistics remain unknown. However, the scenes of Spanish colonialism and forced labor can be seen at the Museum of the Royal Mint in Spain.


3-3-2 Liverpool, England’s City of Maritime Trade

England's port city of Liverpool has a history that encompasses immigration, the slave trade, and the Industrial Revolution. The city was used as a major port for large-scale migrations of Northern Europeans and slaves to the United States. It was the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries that supported the prosperity of the maritime city of Liverpool in pioneering development in areas such as modern loading and unloading technologies, transportation systems, and port management. To address the history of the slave trade and slavery in the present day, Liverpool opened the first International Slavery Museum, in the United Kingdom in 2007. In addition, the city established Slavery Remembrance Day which is commemorated with events every year on the 23rd of August.


3-3-3 Germany’s Rammelsberg Coal Mine

The Rammelsberg Mine, Germany's first industrial facility World Heritage Site, is the only mine in the world with an uninterrupted history of over 1000 years. The Rammelsberg Mining Museum is located inside the mining facility.

The displays at the museum are divided into three areas. While most of the exhibition items pertain to mining and minerals, it also exhibits the history of forced labor in the mine that was carried out during World War II using non-Germans brought in from occupied territories in Eastern Europe and POWs from Western Europe. The permanent exhibition on the history of the mine in the main exhibition area touches on the subject in particular, in which some 20% of the total exhibition space (60㎡ of the total 300㎡) exhibits the facts of forced labor on foreigners in a fairly weighty manner. This space is comparable to that devoted to the Middle Ages, considered to be the most important period in the history of the Rammelsberg Mine.

The foundation in charge of management for the Rammelsberg World Heritage (Mines of Rammelsberg, Historic Town of Goslar and Upper Harz Water Management System) has taken into account the widespread nature of this industrial heritage in the Harz Region (the highlands in northern Germany spanning Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia) to promote the establishment and operation of information Centres in various locations within the scope of the World Heritage area under the slogan "World Heritage in the Harz."

Accordingly, the first information Centre was opened on July 23, 2020 in the nearby Walkenried, with another two more information centers set to open in Goslar and Clausthal-Zellerfield, with planned openings in 2021 and 2022, respectively.


3-3-4 Germany’s Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex

The Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen in the Ruhr Coalfield in Germany shows the history of Germany's heavy industry over 150 years. The Zollverein coal mines were also sites where people from countries such as Poland and France were mobilized during the war and POWs were subjected to forced labor. The museum exhibition reveals how the Zollverein mines in the Ruhr Industrial Region supported weapons production over two world wars, and how Jews, foreigners and POWs were forced to work on site.


3-3-5 Germany’s Völklingen Ironworks

The Völklingen Ironworks in Germany's Saar Coal District is also an industrial heritage that shows the history of Germany’s heavy industry. It is the only example of integrated steel mills built in Western Europe and North America in the 19th and 20th centuries that remains intact, and was the largest steel producer in Germany. In this place, as many as 12,000 people were forced to work during the Second World War. The history of forced labor at the end of the war by mobilizations of people from countries such as Russia, Poland, Yugoslavia, France, Belgium and Luxembourg is also exhibited in detail.

German industrial heritage and forced labor
The permanent exhibition hall at the Rammelsberg Mining Museum makes use of some 400 to 500 foreign nationals from occupied Eastern Europe (mostly from Ukraine and Poland) and POWs from Western Europe (France, Belgium, Italy, etc.) present at the Rammelsberg Mines during WWII to show the facts in a relatively detailed and unfiltered manner of the forced labor that took place. For the exhibition contents in 1999, the museum commissioned a research project with a research expert on Nazi forced labor (Bernhild Vögel), and the composition and contents of the current exhibition are based on the results of two years of research. The museum stated that, although the scale of forced labor on foreigners in the Rammelsberg mine was small compared to that in the Zollverein coal mine, it was clearly a part of the history that should not be overlooked and thus the necessary budget and time was invested into the research project to convey the facts as accurately and with as much balance as possible. In particular, in order to effectively convey this to future generations with no experience in the period under the Nazis when the forced labor took place, it was decided to organize the exhibition to contain content that included vivid images and voices of the victims in lieu of a simple memorial installation. To make this happen, the museum not only collected official internal German records and materials, but also visited Ukraine in person on two occasions to search out and interview the survivors who had been subjected to forced labor at the time, using the recordings from the interviews for a portion of the content of the exhibition.

Main exhibition area floor map (section pointed to: exhibition area on forced labor)
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Information board explaining the background of forced labor (student research project)
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Panel displaying ID cards of foreign forced laborers, records of work, and victims of forced labor
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Organizations and those in charge of systematically managed forced labor
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Panel explaining the testimony of victims and OST (German: east) marks on forced laborers from Eastern Europe
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Cemetery for victims of forced labor (115 victims) and zone map
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The storytelling at the Ruhr Museum's permanent exhibition deals with the development of the industry along with its side effects. Along with the explanations of the 200 years of prosperity, development, quality of life and education in the Essen region, it contrasts this with details of the world wars—the most devastating period in history—and the European Jews that were sacrificed.

Ruhr Museum
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Destruction and Reconstruction (1914 - 1947) - "War and Violence" exhibition panel
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The permanent exhibition at the Völklingen Ironworks not only explains forced labor that took place during the First and Second World Wars, but also deals with the topic in greater depth in a separate section entitled 'Forced Labour'. The Völklingen Ironworks investigates forced laborers and publishes their names and other related data on its website. Recently, world-renowned sculptor Christian Boltanski unveiled a special memorial location in November 2018 created as a work of art in honor of the victims of forced labor.

Völklingen Ironworks Museum
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Exhibition panels explaining forced labor in detail
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[Citation]
In the First World War, citizens of 'enemy states' were used as forced labourers in industry in the Saar district. These included prisoners of war from Russia and France, civil servants male and female from Belgium and Italy. In Völklingen they amounted to a total of around 1,400.

In the Second World War the use of male and female forced labour differed in quantity and quality radically to that of the First World War at Röchling’s works as well. The uppermost extremities of forced labour under the Nazis were reached, when Goebbels proclaimed a state of 'total war'.

An important transit point for the deported forced labourers from the Soviet Union was the Ukraine. Once the deportees arrived in Germany they would be relieved of their identification papers. They were then forced to wear the letters 'OST' meaning 'Ostarbeiter' (worker from the East) and lived imprisoned in camps.

In the Second World War more than 12,000 males and females worked in the Völklingen Ironworks. More than 250 of those forced labourers were to lose their lives: [names of forced labourers follow]

The permanent exhibition at the Völklingen Ironworks not only explains forced labor that took place during the First and Second World Wars, but also deals with the topic in greater depth in a separate section entitled 'Forced Labour'. The Völklingen Ironworks investigates forced laborers and publishes their names and other related data on its website. Recently, world-renowned sculptor Christian Boltanski unveiled a special memorial location in November 2018 created as a work of art in honor of the victims of forced labor.

 

 
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