18th Century Protection Letter For Jewish Family

18th Century Protection Letter For Jewish Family

As a side topic, I do collect also protection letters & passes from the Holocaust which includes documents issued and signed by several “righteous diplomats”. But to get the chance to secure such an early document of Jewish-German-Polish history is outstanding!

This folio protection letter for a Jew from Poland with name Moses Lewin from the City of Lodz (profession: tailor), received the  Royal protection and the right of residence for him and his family, issued on order by the King of Prussia. The document is sealed and dated 1799, and written in German with Polish translation.

The only other document like this I saw at a recent visit this March at the Jewish museum in Berlin, Germany. But I have to say their document is in much more worse condition. Mine is, considering its age, in excellent condition with a completely intact and crisp seal. I tried to get in contact with researchers there during my visit to discuss the topic – but unfortunately, they were not flexible at all and I even had the impression they were quite arrogant in dealing with my request to met a responsible researcher at the location. What a pity. However, I am pretty lucky and happy to found this significant document of Jewish-German-Polish history.

Prussian German Jewish Protection letter 1799
Prussian protection letter for a Jew (Schutzjude) issued 1799 with a fully intact & crisp wax seal.

Brief historical situation

The repressive Prussian laws introduced in formerly Polish territories were directed against the Jewish proletariat. There were a number of restrictions which, among other things, aimed at forcing the Jews out of the country as long as they could not produce evidence of possessing appropriate wealth. The General Ordinance on the Jews (General Judenreglement) of April 17, 1797, divided all Jews into those ”protected” ( Schutzjuden), who were obliged to know the German language and possess a sufficient amount of wealth, and those who were merely ”tolerated”.

This ordinance limited the rights of Jews to settle in the countryside. It also ordered the removal from the area of those Jews who could not prove that they had resided in a given town in the territory of the partition zone at the time when this territory had been annexed to Prussia. The same regulations were introduced in the Grand Duchy of Poznan which had been part of the Duchy of Warsaw before the former was joined to Prussia.

Equal rights for all Jews came in 1848 when the differences between the two categories of Jews were abolished. Later, in 1850, Jews were given the same rights as the remaining subjects of the king of Prussia. It should be added incidentally that the legislation which accorded certain privileges to those Jews who spoke German was conducive to assimilation. On the other hand, a large number of those who could not speak German had to leave the country. 18th Century Protection Letter For Jewish Family

The constitution of the Duchy of Warsaw, by abolishing differences between the estates, introduced formal equality of all citizens. In spite of this, it provided a number of restrictions in relation to Jews. For example, they were forbidden to work in certain occupations and the granting of full rights to them was made dependent on their cultural and traditional assimilation. The Jewish question became the subject of extensive discussion. Some authors accused them of selling cheap, poor quality products. To this, the outstanding economist, Wawrzyniec Surowiecki (1769-1827) replied: ‘‘It is not the fault of the merchant or the craftsman that he supplies the country with this sort [of goods], but it is the result of the poverty and misery of the inhabitants who can afford nothing better. Were this sentence not true in relation to Poland, the Jews, together with their humble goods, would have soon gone bankrupt.” In such discussions, one could easily discern interests of the burghers who were afraid of competition from Jewish merchants and craftsmen and therefore were in favor of restrictive measures against the Jews.

The overwhelming majority of Jews in the Duchy of Warsaw were poor and made their living from petty trade and crafts. Only some succeeded in accumulating wealth. Of the latter, the leading place undoubtedly goes to the family of Samuel Zbitkover (1756-1801) who laid the foundations of his fortune in the final years of the Commonwealth when he was engaged in provisioning the army. Then there was also the banker Samuel Kronenberg whose son would play an important role in the country’s economic and political life.

Further reading at Jewishgen.org…

General Ordinance on the Jews – General Judenreglement April 1797 (German)

18th Century Protection Letter For Jewish Family

FAQ Passport History
Passport collection, passport renewal, old passports for sale, vintage passport, emergency passport renewal, same day passport, passport application, pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट

1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...