Press Release, 14 August 2007                                                                                          



Inventor of Cruise Shipping and Founder of the Emigrants' Halls in Hamburg


150th Birthday of a Man Who Helped Millions Emigrate to the U.S. – Albert Ballin


150 years ago, on August 15th 1857, Albert Ballin was born in Hamburg – the person after whom the "BallinStadt" was named.  In his honor, Europe's unique emigration museum bears his name: "Port of Dreams – BallinStadt – History of Emigration Hamburg" was opened on July 4th 2007. It is dedicated to the over five million people who departed on their journey to the New World from Hamburg.


Albert Ballin was the founder of the Hamburg "Auswandererhallen" (Emigrants' Halls), and was one of the leading personalities of his day. Ballin was not only a close friend of the Kaiser, but was also General Director of the Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Actien-Gesellschaft (HAPAG), at the time the largest shipping company in the world. Some of his life's achievements include the successful direction of the HAPAG, the invention of cruise shipping, and the establishment of the "Auswandererhallen," a city constructed solely for emigrants.


Albert Ballin was just 17 when he entered the business of his Jewish father. His involvement in this agency, which arranged ship's passage for would-be emigrants, was soon crowned by success. From 1881 to 1914, a wave of emigration took place in Europe which is referred to in the United States as the "New Immigration." Ballin's contribution was in establishing better conditions for the emigrants on board than had ever been known before.


Until this time, it was unthinkable that members of society's different classes could actually meet on board.  Emigrants pinched for money experienced their passage to the New World in cramped quarters in the 'tween decks. Ballin nearly eliminated these class barriers, enabling a more comfortable journey with greater room for movement. As General Director of HAPAG, in 1906 he introduced a third class which cost only slightly more than passage in the 'tween decks, but which offered individual cabins.


In1891 he carried out an idea which had been laughed at by colleagues and competitors but which was soon to become a worldwide success: cruise shipping. In order to make better use of his ships during the winter months, he organized cruises to warmer destinations with the sole purpose of travelling in a relaxed atmosphere. Ballin himself was the host on the cruise and invited important journalists. The cruise was a complete success. There was another important innovation which soon gained widespread popularity: during the cruise the first on-board newspaper was published, where passengers could read the latest daily information about their voyage.


One of Ballin's business mainstays, however, remained emigration. The HAPAG and its agents offered all-round service to the emigrants: they were provided with railroad and ship tickets, as well as pre-embarkation lodging in Hamburg. On the Veddel in southern Hamburg, Ballin constructed departure facilities which were unique in the world: sleeping wards with room for up to 5,000 persons daily, dining salons, churches, a synagogue and even a music pavilion and rooms for the required medical examinations. In this "exemplary facility," persons from widely differing cultures came together to wait for their crossing to the "New World."


At this historic location, on July 4th 2007 a museum was opened which is dedicated to this man and the history of emigration: the "BallinStadt." The story of emigration from Hamburg is told here, as well as the story of the man who to a large degree made large-scale emigration possible: Albert Ballin cannot be described merely through his success as HAPAG General Director.


His name is present at many locations in modern Hamburg. Along with the "BallinStadt," there is also Ballindamm street. In house number 25, the Ballin Haus, the modern-day Hapag-Lloyd has their headquarters


BallinStadt – Emigration World Hamburg

The "Port of Dreams – BallinStadt – History of Emigration Hamburg" is an emigration museum which is unique in Europe. Situated on the historic location where the "Emigrant's Halls" once stood, the story of more than five million emigrants is movingly told here. Persons who left their homes between 1850 and 1934 via the Port of Hamburg on their journey to start a new life in America. 81 % of them went to the United States – today, around every fifth American has German "roots."


The Emigration World Hamburg gives visitors a comprehensive, moving look at the phenomenon of mass emigration. All of the stages of emigration are understandably presented – from leaving home, through the strenuous journey, up to arrival and settling in the New World. In addition to fascinating photos of the various stages to a new life, the exhibit also clearly shows what induced persons to leave their homes in the first place.


BallinStadt – A Living Museum

Located on historic grounds, the 7-acre "BallinStadt" is a place filled with emotion where history comes alive. The history of emigration via the Port of Hamburg is also the history of Europe. A history filled with hopes, fears and dreams that are just as valid today as they were so many years ago.


Hamburg has dedicated the "BallinStadt" to these emigrants and named it after Albert Ballin, former General Director of the HAPAG world's largest shipping line. Between 1901 and 1907, Ballin had a city constructed specially for emigrants, which in addition to sleeping and dining facilities also offered businesses, churches, a synagogue, shops, a hair-dressers and a music pavilion.


Family Research Center

The Family Research Center, which the "BallinStadt" has jointly established with, is the scientific core of the exhibition. Here, persons researching their ancestry can trace their roots. Trained genealogical specialists can assist in researching and constructing a family tree. The ship's passenger lists offer a wealth of information about the emigrants who departed via Hamburg and are an invaluable source of information for family researchers.


You can find further information on Albert Ballin and the "BallinStadt" on the Internet under

             Mr.Albert Ballin



                                       Main Entry

Nina Siepmann

BallinStadt Hamburg

Veddeler Bogen 2

20539 Hamburg                                            Ariel Photograph

T +49 (0)40 / 3197916-0