Fire at Shaft 208 B

Author & Director:
Kerstin Mauersberger

Commissioning Editor:
Manfred Schmidt


astfilm productions | for MDR

In February 1960 the most momentous mine accident in the history of the German Democratic Republic occurred. On February 22nd 1960, at 8:20 a.m. on that Monday morning, 174 miners were buried alive after an explosion in about 3.600 feet underground at the coal mine "Karl-Marx" near the city of Zwickau. The alarmed rescue forces instantly tried to reach the miners, but there was almost no oxygen left, only smoke, fire, unbearable heat and the vague hope to retrieve the trapped miners alive. Not until eleven hours after the fire broke out, the GDR's news agencies published the accident - when it became clear, that neither it could be kept secret nor trivialized. Up to that moment, 40 miners were rescued and thirteen dead bodies recovered. It became a six days long and desperate battle for the lives of the still trapped, but nevertheless the GDR regime refused West-Germany's offer to assist. The discovery of another gigantic fire underground, it finally stops all rescue efforts. At the end, 123 miners are dead.

The deep grief over the dead of the catastrophe, for a short time it reunited Germany during the Cold War. The German Federal Parliament and the central committee, the mining areas in the Ruhr and in the Ore Mountains, at the national mourning they all had flown the flags at half mast. For one minute of silence, all machines were shut off, all cars had stopped and the people remained in silence, in East- and in West-Germany. Afterwards, political routine took over again. A commission was established to investigate the reasons for the catastrophe ...

The documentary reconstructs in detail the events that took place. A story based on numerous documents and files that not until now, many years after, became open to the public. But first and foremost it's a story based on the memories and experiences of the directly involved: Miners, members of the rescue forces, families, medics, investigators, ...