The haunting past of Königsmühle has inspired artists and volunteers to put it back on the map

The ruins of Königsmühle or King’s Mill, a dilapidated settlement near the Czech-German border bears testimony of the tumultuous years of the 20th century. Life in the settlement which had only six houses, ended with the expulsion of Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia at the end of WWII. The place remained uninhabited for decades, and the houses went to ruin, but their haunting presence attracted Czech tramping enthusiasts and later various artists who are determined to bring it back to life.

In 1860 the Königsmühle settlement counted six houses which were home to 53 inhabitants. The mill with its small pond and dam was the main feature. The flour made here was transported along the nearby trade route (die Mautstrasse = toll road) from Bohemia to Saxony. During WWII the inhabitants of the remaining houses would hide in the mill’s spacious cellar during air raids.

"It was like the end of the world. Especially in winter. People were completely cut off, "says Rosemarie Ernst, a native of Königsmühle, who published a book about her native settlement some years ago. One of the houses in Königsmühle belonged to her paternal grandparents.

When the inhabitants of Königsmulle were deported in the autumn of 1946, some of the locals living nearby used their houses as a source of building material. Roofs, balconies, windows and doors were taken away and the settlement quickly went to ruin.

Although the road leading to it was not maintained for years, tramps found their way to the abandoned settlement, were captivated by its haunting beauty and decided to save and restore the place. Every August, a cultural event is held there, the proceeds of which are used to help put Königsmühle back on the map.

Petr Mikšíček, who has published several books about the Ore Mountains, spearheads this effort. He says Königsmühle is a bridge between the past and the future and its history should not be forgotten.

"Königsmühle is an abandoned settlement that miraculously survived. There were six houses here at the end of WWII and the ruins of those houses are still here. Other such settlements were razed to the ground. The place is not overgrown and therefore does not look depressing. It has an amazing energy and people love to spend time here. We are trying to restore its genius loci and bring to light some of the things that happened to the people who lived here over the centuries.”

The Land and Art festival held every year in August draws artists from the Czech Republic and Germany– sculptors, woodcarvers, photographers, painters and others who can contribute to the revitalization of the abandoned settlement. The week-long event includes workshops, lectures and film screenings focussing on the landscape and history of this area. In most cases, the works of art made here are linked to the history of Kőnigsmühle. Today the festival has a ten year tradition and around one hundred volunteers are helping the cause.

The last living inhabitant of Königsmühle Rosemarie Ernst, is a regular visitor. She was forced to leave the tiny village within the forced expulsion of Sudeten Germans from Czech territory. She was not able to return to see the place until the 1960s, and recently wrote a book based on the memories of her neighbours from Kőnigsmühle.


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