Albert Ballin – an early shaper of globalization

Hapag-Lloyd will be commemorating the 100th anniversary of the death of its legendary director-general with an international symposium on globalization, a concert evening and a theater performance.

Albert Ballin (1857-1918) was born in Hamburg to a family of modest means. By the age of 17, he had already taken over the small passage agency of his father after the latter’s death. In 1886, he joined Hapag, where the ambitious outsider worked his way up to director-general. Hapag had been through a period of crisis. But the company enjoyed an unexpected resurgence with Ballin at its helm, and it would ultimately emerge as the largest shipping company in the world. At the height of the first period of globalization, Ballin made a comfortable crossing of the Atlantic affordable to even the poorer strata of society, thereby spurring the wave of emigration to the United States. At the same time, Ballin “invented” the modern cruise: In the winter, he sent liners that otherwise operated on the North Atlantic routes to warmer climes as floating luxury hotels.

As an immensely talented networker, Ballin played a very active role in the social life of the German Empire, and he used his connections around the world in his efforts to exert political influence. Shortly before his death, Ballin despaired of his fruitless efforts to broker a peace settlement between the enemy powers in the late phase of World War I. 

To mark the centenary of the death of this multi-faceted individual on November 9, 2018, Hapag-Lloyd will be organizing the first Albert Ballin Forum on November 6 and 7 in Hamburg. Under the motto “Mein Feld ist die Welt” (“The World Is My Oyster”), the interdisciplinary symposium with high-profile participants will critically examine processes of globalization both past and present. The forum is being organized in partnership with the Hamburg Museum and the Franz Vranitzky Chair for European Studies at the University of Vienna.

As part of a reception hosted by the Hamburg Senate in Hamburg City Hall on the evening of November 6, the “Albert Ballin Award for Global Action” and two “Albert Ballin Awards for Globalization Research” will be awarded for the first time. For further information, please visit our website under “About Us”.

On the evening of November 7, the company will be hosting a concert in Ballin’s honor at its Hamburg headquarters on the Ballindamm. The sibling duo of Razvan Stoica (violin) and Andreea Stoica (piano) will perform a number of works, including the world premiere of a new composition dedicated to the memory of Ballin. The actor Oliver Hermann will also read from Ballin’s letters. Following the concert, Hapag-Lloyd will be hosting a reception. Admission is free. For tickets, please write to: [email protected].

In addition, a special performance of the play “Amerika” – based on Franz Kafka’s work of the same name written between 1911 and 1914 and directed by Bastian Kraft – will be held in Hapag-Lloyd’s company restaurant in the Ballindamm headquarters building on Sunday, November 11, at 8 p.m. The acclaimed solo play by actor Philipp Hochmair, who came to Hamburg from the Burgtheater in Vienna, is about Karl Rossmann, whose emigration to the United States is mainly characterized by experiences of rejection. Tickets can be obtained via the Thalia website or at the ticket counter.



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