Belgium Museum Will Tell Story of Red Star Line That Carried Jews to America

Chronicling the Ships that Brought Millions to Freedom

Precious Cargo: Ships carried people, petroleum and grain.
John S. Johnston/Library of Congress
Precious Cargo: Ships carried people, petroleum and grain.

By Molly Arost Staub

Published June 04, 2013, issue of June 07, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

The main exhibit in the museum simulates the immigration experience. Museumgoers will first visit a fake Warsaw travel agency, then proceed to the interior of a train carriage which takes them to the simulated city of Antwerp. Steerage passengers go through a screening process and then board a mock ship that takes them to Ellis Island or an immigrant intake center in Philadelphia.

The Red Star Line museum also pays homage to the Jews who stayed in Antwerp rather than continue on to the United States, either because they were deemed unfit to travel or because they saw business opportunities in the city. Today, Antwerp’s Jewish population is around 15,000; many have family ties to the diamond business.

The Red Star Line Museum is but the latest in a growing number of immigration museums in Europe. London’s Museum of Immigration and Diversity chronicles the waves of Huguenots, Irish, Eastern European Jews and Bangladeshis who came to England. The BallinStadt Emigration Museum in Hamburg, Germany is named for Albert Ballin, the Jewish owner of the Happag shipping company that transported millions of Europeans to the United States. There are also immigration museums in Bremerhaven, Germany; Cobh, Ireland, and Cherbourgh, France.

“There’s been a growing interest in Europe in immigration, because we are confronted by lots of immigration,” said Luc Verheyen, the Red Star Line Museum’s project coordinator in Antwerp. With the new institution, he said, “we tried to give immigration new meaning for a wider public, an example of a global phenomenon.”

Molly Arost Staub is a freelance writer and the former editor of Palm Beach Jewish World.

This article was updated on June 12 to clarify the identity of the founders of the Red Star Line and to correct the contents of the timeline and historical exhibition.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.