Such is the hubris of boom-town Hamburg that its role as the principal emigration point in Germany is largely overlooked. Yet the unprepossessing patch of wasteland opposite HafenCity was the last piece of Europe experienced by millions of Europeans and Russians. Nearly five million people embarked at Hamburg for a new life in the New World – almost 1.9 million people left during the peak period of mass migration between 1891 and 1914, when poverty and pogroms proved the final straw for many in southern and eastern Europe. A cholera epidemic that claimed ten thousand lives in three months prompted city authorities to demand that the emigration shipping lines relocate from the docks at St Pauli to Veddel island opposite Speicherstadt. Located beside the south exit of Veddel S-Bahn station, the last brick Emigrant Hall to house the masses is the centrepiece of the BallinStadt museum (Veddeler Bogen 2; daily 10am–6pm; €12; ballinstadt.de), whose interactive exhibits seek to re-create the emigrant experience with dioramas that combine contemporary exhibits and personal narratives. Most emigrants were bound for the United States – a research area provides access to online records of émigrés from 1850 to 1934, plus a partner database with 34 million records.

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