Wed 23 December 2022

Unrest in the Minett

Riots in Esch

In November 1918, shortly after the end of First World War, about 6,000 residents of Esch-sur-Alzette started looting shops all over the town. The police tried to stop the rioters but had difficulties in doing so. Our radio play recreates the events of the night from 26 to 27 November from a police perspective. You can listen to the events themselves, the police interrogations and reflections by police officers on what happened.

When we discovered the police reports about the riots in Esch during the night from 26 to 27 November, we were perplexed. Why was there so little to be found about this incident in history books about Esch if some 6,000 local residents had participated in the riots?

As the police reports were very extensive and represented interesting source material, we decided to use them as the basis for an audio play. In our search for further sources, we found newspaper articles as well as further police and state reports, but no sources from the rioters themselves, as no group claimed responsibility for the riots. For historical accuracy, the audio play is therefore told from the perspective of the police officers and their interrogations. You can also read an essay about our reflections on the historical context of food shortages and other uprisings, why the riots might have happened and what the consequences were.


An oral history of the Minett

An oral history of the Minett: discover the Luciano Pagliarini interviews. Travel back in time and listen to audio testimonies tracing the daily life of inhabitants of the Minett region in southern Luxembourg during the 20th century.

The Minett region in southern Luxembourg was the industrial heartland of the country. Mines and blast furnaces, most of which have now disappeared, once dominated the landscape. Luciano Pagliarini’s collection of interviews constitutes a unique corpus of audio testimonies that gives us a glimpse of the local history and daily experiences of locals during the 20th century.

The interviews conducted from the late 1970s to the early 1990s by Luciano Pagliarini, “an Italian born in 1957 in Differdange (Luxembourg) to a father who was an underground miner and accordion player and a mother who worked in a textiles shop, (and who) worked most of his life as a jazz musician”, contribute to a particularly rich testimony of a past that ultimately forged contemporary Luxembourg.

“An oral history of the Minett” takes us back to a not so distant past, one characterised by the intertwined stories of industry, labour, migration and war. It is the history of a region and its inhabitants. The aim is to rediscover local history by bringing to life the daily experiences of the region’s inhabitants through their testimonies on subjects as diverse as:

  • what the miners ate as they engaged in difficult and gruelling work
  • the history of young people, who often followed in the footsteps of their elders and embarked on industrial trades from a very young age
  • accidents that befell the workers
  • the question of the value of work, linked closely with that of wages
  • memories of the two World Wars (1914-1918; 1939-1945) and their impact on the region and its inhabitants


Crimes or subsistence?

When browsing newspapers published in the first half of the 20th century, we come across many short stories telling us about petty crimes in the Minett region. But what did those crimes mean at the time? Why did people steal, smuggle, poach and prostitute themselves? Maybe petty crime was a form of subsistence – or was it actually a lucrative business that enabled people to earn large amounts of money in a short space of time?

Two different sorts of historical document inspired this story: sensationalist newspaper articles on petty crime from the end of First World War to the 1930s, and linocuts made by Esch-based trade unionist Albert Kaiser depicting the lives and hardships of industrial labourers during the 1920s and 1930s.

For the virtual exhibition, Benjamin Steiner created nine linocuts illustrating the content of the newspaper articles on petty crime, based on Albert Kaiser’s work. In a short video, you can listen to these stories about prostitution, food theft, poaching and smuggling while looking at the linocuts being assembled.

If you want to know more, below you will find an article that speculates on whether these forms of petty crime should rather be interpreted as a form of subsistence or an underground business beyond the limits of legality in the Minett.


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