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Germans From Russia Journey From Russia to North America

Prepared by Allyn Brosz, Washington, D.C., February, 2009.


Here's more information about the conditions our ancestors may have encountered on their journey from Russia to North America. The Reports of the U.S. Immigration Commission, Senate Document No. 748, 61st [U. S.] Congress, 3d Session, December 5, 1910, printed at Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1911, describes a situation that is almost unknown to most genealogical researchers -- the examination of emigrants from Russia before they arrived at their port of embarkation.

Starting on p. 93, the report states, "One of the most interesting instances of emigrant inspection in Europe is the control-station system on the German-Russian and German-Austrian frontier. There are thirteen of these stations located at railway points along the border, and through them passes a great tide of eastern European emigrants which embarks at British, French, Dutch, Belgium, and German ports. At these stations emigrants are required by a law of Germany to submit to a medical inspection, and those not meeting the requirements of that country or who obviously can not comply with the physical test applied to immigrants at United States ports are not allowed to pass over German soil, and every year thousands are turned back to country whence they came.

The system had its origin in the cholera epidemic of 1892, when the port of Hamburg was badly infected, the disease presumably being introduced by Russian emigrants bound for the United States. Immediately following this outbreak it was decreed that such emigrants should not be allowed to pass through German territory and soldiers were stationed along the frontier to enforce the decree. This regulation was in effect for several months and resulted in a great loss to the steamship companies, for by that time the emigration movement from Russia to the United States had become large. The Hamburg-American and North German Lloyd lines were finally able to effect a compromise with the Government whereby the steamship companies were to erect and maintain control stations at frontier railway towns where all emigrants should undergo a thorough examination before being allowed to pass through Germany. . . .

" . . . control stations were maintained at the following border points:  Russian frontier--Bajohren, Eydtkuhnen, Illowo, Insterburg, Ostrowo, Ottlatschin, Posen, Prostken, Tilsit; Austrian frontier--Bingerbruck, Leipsig, Myslowitz, and Ratibor. An interior station was maintained at Ruhleben, near Berlin, where emigrants not passing through the border stations were inspected. These control stations are maintained by the two German steamship lines, the Hamburg-American and North German Lloyd, and the Holland-American, Red Star, White Star, Cunard, American, and French lines, for by a concession of the Government, emigrants booked for passage on the foreign lines mentioned are permitted to pass through the station and over German territory. Emigrants holding tickets by lines other than those mentioned are not permitted to pass the control stations. . . .

"During the fiscal year ending June 30, 1907, a total of 1,199,566 European immigrants were admitted at United States ports, and during the same period 455,916 intended emigrants were inspected at German control stations.While the above numbers are not strictly comparable it is clear thatr approximately one-third of all emigrants from Europe to the United States pass through these stations, and that fact emphasizes their importance in the system of emigration selection abroad which the United States immigration law has made necessary."

Besser a Glatze als gar koine Hoor!

Our appreciation is extended to Allyn Brosz for permission to use this text.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller
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