Neunkirchen is a town and a municipality in Saarland, Germany. It is the largest town in, and the seat of the district of Neunkirchen. It is situated on the river Blies, approx. 20 km northeast of Saarbrücken. With about 50,000 inhabitants, Neunkirchen is Saarland’s 2nd largest city. The name of the town derives from “An der neuen Kirche” meaning “by the new church” not from “nine churches” as one might be tempted to assume. In the past, Neunkirchen’s economy has been shaped almost exclusively by coal and steel. With the decline of this industry sector, Neunkirchen’s economy had to face drastic changes and underwent a significant shift towards the service and retail sector, although smaller industries still remain.
There are traces of surface coal mining that reach back as far as 700BC. Later on, coal was mined underground until 1968. In 1593, the first ironworks were constructed in the Blies valley. The iron ore used was from local origin. Much of the city’s fate was influced by the von Stumm-Halberg family, who owned the local ironworks from 1806 onwards, and thus had enormous influence on the local politics. Due to the decline of the coal and steel industry, the local economy faced aggravating hardships. With the last coal mine closing down in 1968 and the major part of the ironworks complex closing down in 1982 (only a steel-mill is still in service today), the unemployment rate rose drastically. Meanwhile, the city has transformed into a “shopping town”, a process that had been started with the construction of a large shopping centre on the grounds of the former steelworks. Remnants of the former steelworks that had not been destroyed meanwhile have been preserved and renovated. They now serve as an industrial monument; parts of them feature small pubs, clubs, a cinema, the first of the German branch of Hooters of America, Inc restaurants and a radio studio of the McDonald’s fast food chain.
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