A massive façade, imposing in its strength and majesty with its columns rooted in the ground and seeming to defy the six months of ephemeral duration they have to live, its group of beautiful flight symbolising the power of work, its gold-tipped medallions proudly displaying the names of the great cities of Germany, its heavy banners studded with escutcheons and coats of arms descending from the friezes, its absent-eyed masks of Germania which are like the seal with which the Empire marks its ownership.
Although this facade is hidden by the Diamond Collective, strangled by the narrowness of the passage, it has a truly great allure and noble bearing in the sobriety of its lines and the harmony of its decoration.
Its bays open wide to visitors. The Syndicat des Charbonnages Westphaliens is the first to do the honours of the section.
It has every right to do so, for it is a lord of high lineage who has in vassalage a whole people of industries to whom it grants the nourishing bread of the earth, that which an army of miners tears from the ground, which lavishes its treasures and whose generosity does not fear exhaustion.
The Syndicat des Charbonnages Westphaliens is the king of the Rhine province and its suzerainty is envious of us.
We think we are rich because Belgium extracts 15 million tons of coal a year; he draws from his deposits and brings back 70 million. It is always a little humiliating to have as an immediate neighbour a gentleman who, without much effort, eclipses your poor little millions.
A lord of this importance could only have a fit worthy of him. His stand stood at ease in the German section.
Four paintings glorifying the miner's work dominate the stand. Meticulously crafted reductions of art pieces introduce the layman to loading with transport and unloading with endless cables. The wagons glide along, docile and submissive, caught in the path of the clamps which set them straight and leave them in good order; beautifully arranged models show the services rendered by electricity to the machines of the collieries; models present coke oven batteries with suction pumps.
And all this is so precise, so detailed, so lively, that from this corner of the section emerges a singular respect mixed with admiration for all these marvellous toys which in their delicacy and ingenuity speak to us more eloquently about industry than many folios riddled with figures, armed with tables, because they speak to the soul of the masses by touching their imagination.
The Westphalian Syndicate has centralised a harvest of documents, plans, graphs and statistics in which it talks about the volume of air it launches per tenth of a second into the galleries, the coal it brings to the surface, the water it extracts, the construction of its embankments by the discovery of pulverised materials (Pulversatz).
And to prove that the Westphalian seams are of respectable thickness, there are deferential coal blocks next to the reproductions of size. At the back of the stand, a tragedy is played out which, fortunately, has no victims, the actors being only dummies, the stage cardboard, and the noxious gases fictional. In a large gallery, a mock landslide.
Coal miners, equipped with a sophisticated breathing apparatus, a mask that two rubbers connect to a box containing oxygen, collaborate without danger in the rescue. In this size, the Mannrôhrenwerke exhibits samples of metal props that can be extended or shortened by means of levers without the worker having to fear a cave-in.
And we can only praise this cleverly thought-out and well-organised department. It is useful, certainly, still useful, serious and always serious, but useful and serious which have been able to divest themselves of what may be uninformative and scientific in order to instruct and teach in a light and comprehensible form.
The German Section is not the work of the Government, whose considerable efforts were concentrated on Paris, Dusseldorf and Saint-Louis, but the fruitful result of the initiative of a handful of industrialists vigorously supported by a Liège Committee which was hard at work, struggling with a burst of valour and will.
A pleasant pavilion is that of the Société de la Carbonit, which has highly rated apparatus for the study of explosives and the way they behave in their brief existence.
The temperature released is noted, the duration of the flames is studied, the pressure and velocity are calculated, the force of the explosion is assessed and so these nasty devices have well-stocked files.
A brown powder lies in a box, it is carbonite. This tells you nothing; in the world of explosives it holds the record for violence and disaster, it is, up to now, the nec plus ultra of a series which, however, does not lack murderous representatives. Let us also mention the very interesting deep drilling installations of the "Deutsche Tiefbohrgesellschaft Nordhausen" and the "Internationale Bohrgesellschaft" of Erkelenz.
It is an unbroken line of interesting things: The Westdeustche Steinzeug Chamotte und Deniesweche has respectable-sized brownstone tanks and pipes, refractory products stand next to cement blocks crushed under enormous pressure, and safes testify that they have been subjected to fire without succumbing; A telephone and telegraph factory assures us that it is covering Germany with its networks, that it is in the process of equipping Hamburg with the latest improvements of the kind, while at the same time submitting new model phonographs for evaluation. Well-understood agricultural implements stand in contrast to cranes, small drawbridges and emery wheels, and a monument is built of brown coal briquettes.
There was a time when Paul de Kock's "grisette" was ambitious enough to own a mahogany cupboard. This lasted until the sewing machine dethroned her. That's the way things are.
German houses have a profusion of them here: silent ones, noisy ones, sewers, embroiderers, modest ones, princesses, a whole system of clever combinations of needles that go honestly according to the old custom or that draw varied, multiform, capricious curves. The Gretchens are happy women, they have been able to abandon the family distaff to indulge in the feminine works that are so fashionable today, thanks to these machines.
They cut paper and cardboard and, like helpful little fairies, cut out bottle labels, create boxes, manipulate cardboard tubes, and produce a succession of pretty things.
Industrial art is certainly not to be despised and pewter, from the trinket to the piece, is in the hands of skilled workers and distinguished craftsmen who care for it with joy. Crefeld has this speciality and the technique of the manufacturers achieves remarkable findings in form.
Ceramic art has Copenhagen porcelain and Sèvres biscuits which, although not from Denmark or France, have character and expression, finish and delicacy. Glassmaking is given pride of place with the exhibition of the Société des Verreries rhénanes, whose crystals sparkle, whose glasses flare and shine with light - the great art of the glassmaker who encloses light in the transparent cast that he turns, handles and softens with elegance and beauty.
From Thuringia came boxes, frames, tinderboxes, having deserted the lighter which had become useless and cumbersome, and the yellow of the copper ornaments matched the fawn colour of the product very well.
The book industry has delegated folding machines, presses, cardboard machines, stapling machines, composing machines; the piano factories are presented with valuable specimens, the first reminding us that the book more than the sword has made modern Germany, the second that music is in great honour in this country which legitimately honours itself with brilliant musicians.
And when one has made the tour, musing along the stands, one feels some annoyance. One had dreamed of a larger, more extensive section, and one finds it cramped and narrow. This is an initial impression that quickly fades away when you realise that Germany is divided and scattered, that it triumphs in the machine halls, that it shines in a 5,000 square metre area, where it wins peaceful battles in the industrial field. It is here that the factory owners fight the battles for which they spend their time in the four corners of the world, superb in their daring and initiative, enraged by the ardour of competition and seeking to take a clear lead everywhere.
It is the Germany of today that is forging the Germany of tomorrow from scratch, inflamed by those imperial harangues that sound like fanfares, all quivering with energy, all throbbing with patriotism, and which seem to extend the frontiers of the empire to the farthest reaches of the universe.
If it has lived for a long, long time withdrawn into itself, withdrawn into silence and study, bent on the slow and austere work of its constitution and organisation, it is because it was preparing the way for its future triumphs, because it was patiently sowing and ploughing deep into the soil on which the future harvest was to blossom.
Contemporary Germany is only thirty-five years old, and in the registers where history records the births of nations, she is almost the last to arrive in this Europe which has seen so many dynasties crumble and so many thrones collapse, but in the golden book where progress initials its balance sheet, she is more than a century old by the lightning speed of her expansion, by the rigorous logic and the admirable tenacity of her aims, by the grandeur and the beauty of her emancipation.
As soon as it emerged from its vigil of arms, it shook off everything that could impede its progress and paralyse its rise. She broke through the wall behind which the old nations huddled, and set out resolutely into the heart of them with the boldness of those who know only success, with the assurance of those whom destiny has marked for a brilliant future. The elite of its scholars had educated it, the legion of its engineers had shaped it, the pleiad of its diplomats and military had raised and matured it. The work emerged from the shadows and rose in prodigious leaps to the dazzling zenith.
Its industrial, intellectual, commercial and social life overflows with activity and passion.
Germany is no longer in Germany, it is everywhere in the world, establishing itself wherever there is a sea to be crossed, a domain to be exploited, a land to be conquered, proudly planting its standard armed with the imperial eagle.
It is this Germany that the white marble bust of William II, placed in the centre of the section, seems to encourage, and which is illustrated by the magnificence of its industry, the internationalism of its trade and the brilliance of its philosophers and thinkers.
©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition Universelle de Liège 1905