Antwerp museum honours 'Red Star' immigrants

An Antwerp museum dedicated to immigrants who fled across the Atlantic in search a better life in North America has opened in the Belgian port city.

The Red Star Line Shipping company operated passenger routes from 1873 until 1934 for nearly three million immigrants, most of them Jews.

Now they’ve been honoured at the Red Star Line Museum, which tells their story.

But before these Europeans could start make the long-trip across the Atlantic, they had medical examinations to pass.

US authorities feared some would-be arrivals could carry diseases.

Only the healthy and able-bodied were allowed onboard the Red Star Ocean Liners.

Luc Verheyen, a curator at Red Star Line Museum, told euronews: “We have very heart breaking stories of families who did not pass the control either here in Antwerp or in Ellis island where for example one of the kids had to stay behind.

The Red Star Shipping company was founded in 1870 to transport petrol, food and people to and from Europe.

But most passengers who fleeing persecution in Tsarist Russia or Nazi Germany.

Sonia Pressman Fuentes made the trip in the 1930s as a five-year-old girl.

“This trip saved lives of my parents, of my brother and myself. We were living in Germany and Hitler came to power,” said Fuentes.

There were also a number of famous passengers who made the same journey.

German physicist Albert Einstein was a regular onboard the Red Star Line; a man who came to epitomise the American dream.

The idea for the museum was born 11 years ago. Antwerp city hall hopes to attract the descendants of those original immigrants to come and trace their heritage.