New miners in the Ruhr : rebuilding the workforce in the Ruhr mines, 1945-1958
In 1945, the Ruhr pits faced enormous gaps in the workforce as a result of wartime losses and pre-war difficulties in recruiting young labour. Regenerating the workforce was the key to reviving Ruhr coal production and thus to German and Western European economic recovery. Between 1945 and the onset of the coal crisis in 1958, the Ruhr mines were to hire over a million men. Using archival materials, private papers, contemporary printed sources and interviews, the thesis analyses the measures undertaken to win new labour for the Ruhr and the attempts to turn the newcomers into productive and settled miners. After an introductory section, the study looks at the degree to which workforce regeneration was achieved in the pre-currency reform era. The underlying theme is that the pre-1948 economy proved in many ways to be an uncontrolled economy. Despite the enormous priority given to the task, the British initially failed to rebuild the workforce. With US help, they achieved a breakthrough in 1946-47, but the enterprise remained extremely costly and inefficient. These problems resulted from weaknesses inherent in any controlled economy but also from tensions and contradictions in British and later Bipartite rule. The second half of the thesis considers the policies of the 1948-58 period and argues that they were just as unsuccessful in regenerating the mining workforce. Neither a stable nor a compliant workforce was created and in desperation the industry began to turn to foreign labour. One reason for failure was the Federal Government's slowness in responding to the mines' need for housing investment. Another reason was that the established management style in the Ruhr mines alienated many newcomers. The employers' attitudes to management, integration and the labour market were stuck in a pre-war mould. This study contributes to our understanding of a number of different features of the reconstruction, notably the origins and limitations of the 'economic miracle', the impact of and response to the enormous population mobility after the war and the hopes and fears with which Germany's bourgeoisie entered the post-war era. Ultimately, however, the theme running through the study is the enormous and unique challenge that faced any organisation trying to create a stable and productive workforce in the mines.