Throwback Thursday: Both Albert Einstein and Irving Berlin Shared a Ship to America
Ok, maybe not at the same time, but both infamously emigrated from Belgium to the States via the Red Star Line, a ferry that shuttled two million from Europe to America between 1873 and 1934. Berlin migrated with his family when he was five, and Einstein was a regular passenger on the shipping line in 1933, culminating with his final westbound voyage on October 17th of that same year.
We hear so much in the States about the inspiring journeys of immigrants who landed at Ellis Island, the tales of how they found a new life and new opportunities in America. But very rarely does anyone discuss the other side of the journey, what it took for all these people to arrive in New York in the first place.
The Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp, built on the exact site where the ship docked, hopes to fill in some of those gaps. In what is essentially a reverse Ellis Island attraction, the museum walks visitors through the trials and tribulations of 3rd-class passengers as they attempted to escape Europe during the rise of the Nazi regime and the height of Jewish persecution.
Spoiler alert: It wasn’t as simple as getting on the ship! While First Class passengers breezed aboard, the journey for those in 3rd class was much more difficult. Some things never change! These "economy" passengers were subjected to medical screenings, unfavorable lodging conditions, and even an "evaluation" once the ship arrived in the States (some were sent back). And that doesn't even factor in the year or two they had to work to save up for the ticket in the first place. Many had to literally sell the farm in order to buy tickets for their families.
Be sure to check out this point of interest while in Antwerp, a great spot for those interested in understanding the other side of the coin when it comes to American immigration, as well as for tourists with an interest in tracking down their ancestors who made the journey. The museum just opened on September 28th and cost over $20 million.
[Photos: Red Star Line Museum]