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

In: Journal of Migration History
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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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