‘The Long March through Leipzig’: Train Terminal Chaos and the Transmigrant Registration Station, 1904–1914

In: Journal of Migration History
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  • 1 German Historical Institute Washington DC

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Responding to a cholera scare in the 1890s, German steamship companies, backed by the state, set up transmigrant control stations along eastern Prussian borders. Millions of Eastern European emigrants passed through these medical and financial checkpoints as they made their way by rail to northern European harbour cities, where steamships carried them across the Atlantic. In 1904, officials opened a registration station in the Saxon city of Leipzig. A major European railway hub, Leipzig seemed an ideal location. However, the city layout soon proved problematic. Leipzig had no fewer than six separate train stations, one an hour’s walk from the registration station. Saxon police and shipping officials needed to direct transmigrants arriving in Leipzig to the registration station, despite logistical problems and sometimes uncooperative migrants. Building upon a growing scholarship on the continental journey of transoceanic migrants, this article demonstrates how a single city could affect an intricate transatlantic network.

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     See Tobias Brinkmann, ‘Why Paul Nathan attacked Albert Ballin’, Central European History 43 (2010) 47–83. Other works on transmigrant control in Germany include Christiane Reinecke, Grenzen der Freizügigkeit. Migrationskontrolle in Großbritannien und Deutschland, 1880–1930 (München 2010); Katja Wuestenbecker, ‘Hamburg and the transit of East European emigrants’, in: Andreas Fahrmeier et al. (eds), Migration control in the North Atlantic world. The evolution of state practices in Europe and the United States from the French Revolution to the inter-war period (New York 2003) 223–236; and Michael Just, Ost- und südosteuropäische Amerikawanderung, 1881–1914. Transitprobleme in Deutschland und Aufnahme in den Vereinigten Staaten (Stuttgart 1988).

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  • 7

    Tobias Brinkmann, ‘Travelling with Ballin: The impact of American immigration policies on Jewish transmigration within central Europe, 1880–1914’, International Review of Social History 53 (2008) 459–484, 465. Also see Brinkmann’s article in this issue.

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  • 36

    Simmons, The railway in town and country, 26–27.

  • 38

    Bayer and Sobek, Der Bayerische Bahnhof, 13.

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    Schivelbusch, The railway journey, 171.

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    Berger, Hauptbahnhof Leipzig, 35.

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    Schivelbusch, The railway journey, 180–181.

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    Berger, Hauptbahnhof Leipzig, 34–35.

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    Barbara Schmucki, ‘The machine in the city: Public appropriation of the tramway in Britain and Germany, 1870–1915’, Journal of Urban History 3:6 (2012) 1060–1093, 1077.

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  • 56

    Volkmar Müller, ‘Die Auswanderer-Registrierstation in Leipzig’, Leipzig Illustrirte Zeitung, 17 May 1906, 782.

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