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Kembs (Municipality, Haut-Rhin, France)

Last modified: 2018-06-28 by ivan sache
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Flag of Kembs - Image by Ivan Sache, 27 November 2011

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Presentation of Kembs

The municipality of Kembs (4,361 inhabitants on 2008, 1,645 ha; municipal website) is located 15 kilometers north of Basel, on the border with Germany, here river Rhine. The municipality is made of the villages of Kembs, Schaeferhof, Loechlé and Richardshaeuser. The three latter villages once belonged to the municipality of Neuweg, suppressed on 25 May 1830.

Kembs emerged in the Gallo-Roman times as Cambete, located on a Roman road linking Strasbourg and Augst (today in Switzerland). In 757, it was mentioned as Chambiz. In the 12th-15th century, Kembs was shared by the church and the St. Alban priory of Basle. The village was subsequently transferred to the Habsburg and incorporated to France in 1648.

The Kembs hydroelectric plant was built in 1928-1932. Signed in 1919, the Treaty of Versailles granted to France the development of hydroelectricity on the Rhine, including the building of a diversion canal. The Guebwiller-born engineer René Koechlin (1866-1951) is credited this development; like his elder brother Maurice (1856-1946), who designed the structure of the Eiffel tower, René Koechlin studied at ETH Zurich (Switzerland). In 1902, he presented to the Mulhouse Industry Society a proposal of power plant to be set up on the Rhine upstream Basle, with a dam and a diversion canal supplying the waterfall required to produce electricity. The negotiation with the German government of Alsace, the Grand Duchy of Bade and the Rhine Central Commission were stopped by the First World War. In 1919, Koechlin presented an updated proposal including a big diversion canal linking Basel and Strasbourg and eight plants. The project of Alsace Grand Canal was approved by France and Switzerland. Koechlin founded in 1927 the Énergie électrique du Rhin company. The first plant was inaugurated in Kembs on 9 October 1932 by President of the Republic Albert Lebrun. Destroyed during the Second World War (as was 65% of the village), the Kembs plant was reactivated in 1945 and nationalized on 8 April 1946. Located in Kembs, the Hydraulic Post of the Rhine Valley, automatized in 1976, regulates the energy production by all the Rhine plants (from south to north, or upstream to downstream: Kembs, Ottmarsheim, Fessenheim, Vogelgrün, Marckolsheim, Rhinau, Gerstheim, Strasbourg, Gambsheim and Iffezheim).

Ivan Sache, 27 November 2011

Flag of Kembs

The flag of Kembs is yellow with a black horseshoe in the centre, a black letter "G" in upper left corner and a black letter "K" in the upper right corner

The flag is a banner of the municipal arms, "Or a horseshoe in canton dexter a letter 'G' sinister a letter 'K' all sable". The arms are shown, with a field argent, on the Armorial Général (late 17th century), the field or being introduced in 1979. The letters "G" and "K" stand for "Grand Kembs" (Greater Kembs), as opposed to Klein-Kembs (Lesser Kembs), located on the other side of the Rhine.
It seems that the zealacious compilers of the Armorial Général designed the arms of Kembs on a sounded basis, which is quite unusual (unless these arms already existed, which is not supported by any evidence). The horseshoe symbolizes the post house established in Kembs around 1680 in the Deer's Inn owned by the Heitz family since 1625. Rebuilt in 1739, the post house became a brewery and café around 1900.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 27 November 2011