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ALBERT EINSTEIN
Born in 1879
Travelled from Antwerp to New York on the SS Belgenland on 2 December 1930
Arrived in Antwerp on the SS Belgenland on 28 March 1933
Final departure to America from Southampton on the SS Westernland in October 1933
Item in the museum’s collection: Letter of designation

 

A beloved guest

Unlike many migrants, who travelled with the Red Star Line only once, Albert Einstein was a regular guest on the Red Star Line ocean steamers. By 1920, Einstein had been already honoured as a brilliant scientist and invited to speak worldwide. Perhaps it is a coincidence, but the SS Belgenland was his ‘ship of choice’ more than once. The Einsteins, Albert and his wife Elsa, were beloved guests on board. Not only did they have superstar appeal, they were also friendly, modest people. ‘Dr. Einstein is a brilliant man, but not a difficult person’, was just one of the positive reactions from the ship's personnel.

 

Dangeours times

Albert Einstein was Jewish and an opponent of the Nazis. That was a life-threatening combination in the emerging Third Reich. When Hitler gained full power on 23 March 1933 Albert Einstein and his wife, Elza Koch, were on their way home to Berlin from the United States. After his arrival in Antwerp with the SS Belgenland Einstein found out that the Nazis had looted his house. They soon realised that they could not return to Germany. 

 

A new home

The Belgenland arrived in Antwerp, with the Einsteins on board, at the end of March 1933. Many friends, including King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth, provided them with the best of care but the threat of Nazism weighed too heavily. They left for the United States – Elsa via Antwerp and Albert via Southampton – in October 1933. Just like for millions of other emigrants, America became their new home.