It is a little more than 150 years ago that the centre of Europe was afflicted by civil wars, crop failures and famine. In their despair, millions of Germans, Irishmen and Italians had left Europe and headed for America and Australia. Though Karl Schlesinger’s painting of the emigrating family may appear somewhat sentimental to us today, its degree of reality and the way the painter empathizes with the challenges facing the emigrating family give the painting a strong effect that lasts until today. The way the boat is precariously exposed to the waves has an eerie and terrifying parallel to those fishing boats on which refugees from Africa and the Arab regions are migrating in the direction of Europe today. Their pursuit is not based on recklessness, thirst for adventure or a quest for profit, but rather on despair: due to persecution, civil wars, crop failures and famine. Those who thought that the 19th century lies way behind us are sadly mistaken. What was happening then is still going on today, and this exemplifies that nearly all atrocities of history can repeat themselves.

Dr. Alexander Klar (Director)