Ballinstadt: Dedicated to the History of European Emigrants

Hundreds of old used suitcases are the first exhibit that greets visitors entering the Ballinstadt museum. Every suitcase in The Emigration Museum is unique and carries stories of the hope and desperation of European emigrants from the mid-19th century through World War II.

The museum is divided into three block buildings that tell the story of millions of emigrants who left Hamburg in search of a better life.

Suitcases greet visitors in almost every room

For centuries, refugees and migrants have played an important role in history of  Europe and America.

Outside the museum

The museum is full of interactive elements including video chronicles, audio stories and rare photos of the emigrants. Each of them recalls a unique life story.

An Armenian visitor listens to the story of young German emigrant

Some emigrants left German cities in search of a better life in a New World before World War I; some Germans left to escape Nazi persecution; entire families fled from the Anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire of the 1880s; others left Germany for the U.S. because of political persecution in the wake of the 1848 revolution.

“Please show your ticket and visa”

Another amazing aspect highlighted in the museum are the conditions of their voyage. For example, in the 1870s most migrants travelled in tweendecks that were less than 1.8 meters in height. Each adult was given just 47 cm of space to sleep in, children about 25 cm. Often between 150 and 900 people slept in one big room. In addition, there were serious problems with food and drinking water.

To make matters worse, in the mid-19th century crew had no experience in dealing with passengers, so emigrants were often mixed in with cargo like cotton or tar.

Horrible conditions in the ships

But perhaps the most important room in the museum is the last one, containing Apple computers. A user-friendly program helps people to find the personal story of relatives who might have been emigrants. If you not sure about your family’s past movements, Ballinstadt is a good place to start your research.

Interlinker Hrant Galstyan is trying to find any relatives that may have emigrated