Thanks to a fellow collector, I could grab this pretty scarce passport-type from the German Empire / Alsace-Lorraine. This is not an ordinary passport but a substitute-passport as we can read on the cover. It might have been one of the last passports issued in that period. The passport for Joseph Foehr was issued on 7 November 1918, just four days before the Germans signed the Armistice on 11 November at Le Francport near Compiègne, and which ended WWI.
I have never seen this passport-type before, and I would say it’s a pretty rare type. Surprisingly, to find such travel documents after over 100 years.
The German Empire collapsed in the November 1918 Revolution with the abdications of its monarchs. Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France in 1919 after World War I. This left a postwar federal republic and a devastated and unsatisfied populace, faced with postwar reparation costs of nearly 270 billion dollars all in all leading to the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazism.
Alsace-Lorraine, German Elsass-Lothringen, is an area comprising the present French départements of Haut-Rhin, Bas-Rhin, and the Moselle. Alsace-Lorraine was the name given to the 5,067 square miles (13,123 square km) of territory that was ceded by France to Germany in 1871 after the Franco-German War. This territory was retroceded to France in 1919 after World War I, was ceded again to Germany in 1940 during World War II, and was again retroceded to France in 1945.
Because of its ancient German associations and because of its large German-speaking population, Alsace-Lorraine was incorporated into the German Empire after France’s defeat in the Franco-German War (1870–71). The loss of Alsace-Lorraine was a significant cause of anti-German feeling in France in the period from 1871 to 1914. France also suffered economically from the loss of Alsace-Lorraine’s valuable iron ore deposits, iron- and steel making plants, and other industries to Germany.
Under German rule, Alsace-Lorraine was classified as a Reichsland (imperial state) and was denied effective self-government until 1902. Moreover, its population was initially enthusiastic over the new French republic, and German rule remained unpopular for some years among the inhabitants, who continued to protest the German annexation. Thousands of residents who considered themselves French emigrated during this period. By 1905, however, many of Alsace-Lorraine’s Roman Catholics had been alienated by the French republic’s anti-clerical policies. So they shifted their aspirations toward an autonomous Alsace-Lorraine within the German Empire. After that, especially with the grant of a constitution in 1911, some progress was made toward Germanization in the region.
Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France in 1919 after World War I. The French government’s attempts to rapidly assimilate Alsace-Lorraine met with problems, however, especially in France’s plans to substitute state-run schools for the region’s traditional church schools and in its attempts to suppress German newspapers (German being the written language of 75 percent of the inhabitants). As a consequence, Alsace-Lorraine developed a strict “home rule” movement in the 1920s and unsuccessfully sought autonomy within the French Republic.
Early in World War II, the collapse of France in 1940 was followed by the second German annexation of Alsace-Lorraine, which was again returned to France in 1945. Since then, many of the French prewar governmental policies that had clashed with the region’s particularism have been modified, and the autonomist movement has mostly disappeared. Linguistically, the German dialect known as Alsatian remains the lingua franca of the area, and both French and German are taught in the schools.
FAQ Passport History 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?
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 😉
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.
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