Goldwäschrei (LFS01408)

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Gold panning at the Rhine River with simple means. Gravel and sand are rinsed out and gold bauble remains hanging on the cloth. With the use of mercury, the gold particles are bound.


TC: 10:00:00 ZT: Auch Rheingold wissen sie zu waschen. / ZT: Maurermeister Gustav Vetter hat die Goldwäscherei früher selbst betrieben. / Schwenk über den Rhein, am Rheinufer entlang, Goldgräber bei der Arbeit: Eine Schaufel voll mit Erde wird im Rhein gewaschen. ZT: Vorprobe mit der Holzschaufel. Schaufel im Wasser, nah, Erde wird ausgespült. ZT: Bei 10 bis 20 Goldkernen rentiert sich das Waschen. Erde wird aus der Schaufel gewaschen, Inhalt der Schaufel nah, Goldkerne werden gezählt. Stöcke werden in den Boden gesteckt und ein Brett schräg daraufgelegt, nasse Tücher werden auf das Brett gelegt. TC: 10:05:04 ZT: Der Goldsand fließt über die "Pritsche". Erde wird auf das Brett geschüttet und mit Wasser ausgewaschen. ZT: Die spezifisch schweren Goldflimmer bleiben in den Tuchfasern zurück. Erde wird ausgewaschen. ZT: 1,5 cbm Material ergibt eine Wäsche. Tücher werden mit Wasser vorsichtig abgespült. ZT: Der gewaschene Sand wird öfters geschlämmt. Tücher werden abgezogen und in einem Eimer ausgewaschen, v.E., Wasser wird aus dem Eimer geschüttet und die zurück gebliebene Erde mehrmals ausgewaschen. TC: 10:10:45 ZT: Quecksilber zieht das Gold aus dem Sand zusammen. Inhalt des Eimers wird auf einen Teller geschüttet und durchsucht und in einem Eimer nochmals ausgewaschen. Quecksilber wird dazugegeben. Inhalt des Tellers, nah. Der Inhalt des Tellers wird durch ein Tuch geschüttet und das restliche Wasser ausgepresst. ZT: In der Scheideanstalt wird es wieder vom Quecksilber getrennt. ZT: Der Tagesverdienst eines Goldwäschers beträgt etwa 3 RM. Frau bringt Essen in einem Korb.//


Reference / film number :  LFS01408
Date :  1936
Coloration :  Black and white
Sound :  Mute
Running time :  00:13:43
Reel format :  16 mm
Genre :  Documentary
Thematics :  Traditions, Rural life
Archive :  Haus des Dokumentarfilms

Context and analysis

The Rheingold is a myth that goes back to the Nibelungen saga, according to which Hagen von Tronje the Nibelungen treasure once sunk in the Rhine. The opera "Rheingold" by Richard Wagner, which was premiered in 1869, is part of his four-part complete work "Der Ring des Nibelungen" and takes up this legend. Thereafter, the Rheingold helps the person to endless power, who forges a ring out of the gold.

Legendary is also the luxury train "Rheingold", which drove from 1928 to 1939 along the Rhine Valley from Holland to Switzerland. Deutsche Bahn took up this tradition again in 1951, and from 1962 special panoramic carriages with glass roofs were used; from 1965 he was called TEE (TransEuropExpress). TEE trains rode exclusively with 1st class cars, were subject to reservation, and a surcharge was necessary. This TEE train service was discontinued in 1987 and replaced by the EuroCity with 1st and 2nd class cars.

Gold particels can always be found in the Rhine or on its banks, it comes from the Alps and the Black Forest. It occurs in the form of flakes, which are still found in gravel and sand deposits on the banks or in tributaries of the Rhine. Certified evidence of gold laundries dates back to the 7th and 8th centuries, and is on record around Rastatt and Karlsruhe in the 14th century. Already in 1386 the first Rheingold coins were minted. The gold laundry was a sideline for local farmers, fishermen and craftsmen. From 1666, the gold laundry in Neuburg am Rhein can be detected. Between 1804 and 1834, around 282 pounds of Rhine gold were delivered to government agencies in Baden, which is an average of almost five kilos per year. There was an obligation to submit the finds. However, since the gold was usually purchased below value, there was a black market for it, the overall yield has been higher. The Rheingold was mostly processed by the Baden Grand Duke to golden ducats. The Baden-the-French Rhine Treaty of 1840 stipulated in Article 5: "The hunting, fishing and gold mining rights on the islands and in the waters of the river are paid by the Domain Treasury, municipalities, public institutions or private individuals State to the fixed limit of municipalities without any consideration of the location of the sovereignty exercised. ". In 1838, according to the Baden census, there were 400 gold wasters on the right bank of the Rhine. However, the yield declined, partly because of the straightening of the Rhine, which Johann Gottfried Tulla carried out between 1816 and 1866. As a result, the river points disappeared, on which the gold-bearing sands and gravels could be deposited. Because of the lack of income, the gold washing on Baden side was officially set in 1874. In the 19th century, many gold miners emigrated from Philippsburg to America and Australia to seek their fortune.

In the NS period gold mining on the Rhine was tried to be reactivated. In this context, this film was created. Between 1936 and 1943 experiments were started by the Reich Ministry of Economics on the Rhine between Goldscheuer south of Kehl and Leimersheim north of Karlsruhe. In 1937 the PRAKLA was re-founded, which carried out more than a thousand exploratory drilling and washing tests. The "Schiffs- und Maschinenbau AG" Mannheim commissioned the construction of a dredger, which was obviously named "Rheingold" by this company. From 1939 onwards, he produced 120 cubic meters of gravel every hour and created the so-called "Gold Canal" near Illingen. However, the total yield of 300 grams did not meet the immense economic expectations. 1943, the gold production was officially set. Out of the found gold, it was possible for Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring to make a gold ring with a weight of 30 grams, probably based on the Nibelungen saga. Interestingly, the film does not show this industrial gold prospecting, but an archaic variant in which individual gold seekers wash out sand and gravel and filter out gold baubles.

Background of the film

On the occasion of the 600th anniversary of the city, Gustav Vetter, the last gold washer of Philippsburg, showed the complete working process with his equipment and this was documented on film. His utensils are still in the Heimatmuseum Philippsburg today. The film begins with a tablet "Even Rheingold know to wash" and a slow swing over the side arm of the Rhine by Philippsburg. There Vetter first checks, as there are enough gold baubles. Considering it to be rewarding, he and his companion construct a simple frame over which gravel and sand are washed out. In the gutter are wet fur tracks in which the heavy gold bauble gets stuck. Finally, the gold bauble is bound with highly toxic mercury, which is hugely harmful to humans and the environment. With bare fingers, Vetter stirs the mercury with the gold bauble to bind it. He has to shovel about one cubic meter of sand, sieve and wash to get about 20,000 gold particles. They weigh about one gram. At that time he received 2.76 Reichsmark and this is his daily earnings - if things went well. In the refinery the gold is later separated from the mercury. At the end of the film, a woman brings him the food to the prospect.

To date there are courses and introductions to panning for gold on the Rhine, but compared to earlier centuries, gold mining has lost its economic importance.

Kay Hoffmann


ELSNER Harald, Goldgewinnung in Deutschland. Historie und Potential, Hannover, Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe, 2009 KIRCHHEIMER Franz, Das Rheingold. In: Der Aufschluss, Heft 7/8 1969. LEPPER Carl, Die Goldwäscherei am Rhein, Laurissa Verlag, Lorsch, 1980.

ODENWALD Konrad, Die Goldwäscherei am Rhein bei Philippsburg. In: ODENWALD Konrad, TIROLF Horst: 1200 Jahre Philippsburg. Stadtgeschichte im Spiegel alter Fotodokumente, Stadtverwaltung Philippsburg, Philippsburg, 1984, S. 96-98.