This exhibition of the Jewish Museum in Prague is devoted to the millions of inhabitants of Central and Eastern Europe who decided to leave for America between the end of the 19th and the first decades of the 20th centuries. The port of Antwerp was one of the main points of departure, and up until 1934 the Belgian Red Star Line, with its efficient network of sales agents in the region and attractive pricing, alone transported ca. 2.4 million emigrants from Eastern Europe. Among them were hundreds of thousands Jews from Eastern Europe and Russia, who were fleeing poverty, oppression, and persecution. Between 1881 and 1914, more than two and a half million Jews emigrated from Eastern Europe and Russia and another million left Europe from 1918 to 1939. The statistics show that over a fifty-year period nearly one-third of all Jewish inhabitants in Eastern Europe emigrated.
This exodus was depicted by the painter Eugeen Van Mieghem (1875–1930), who was born and lived his whole life in Antwerp. Since the time of his youth he was in contact with the vibrant world of dockworkers, sailors, and East European emigrants who would become the lifelong subjects of his work. His life witnessed the greatest expansion of the Antwerp harbor and the massive waves of emigration to America. During the First World War, the inhabitants of occupied Belgium became the subject matter of his drawings.
On show are 50 drawings and paintings by Van Mieghem as well as documentation about Red Star Line and period photographs of the Antwerp harbor. The exhibition was organized by the Jewish Museum in Prague in cooperation with the Eugeen Van Mieghem Foundation with support of the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp, and is being held under the personal auspices of Her Excellency Françoise Gustin, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium to the Czech Republic.