A modern German passport with a surprise

The following modern German passport is an emergency passport. Issued in 2000 and valid for one year only, until 2001. The document shows no travels and comes in pristine condition. At the first look, there is nothing special to see besides being an emergency travel document. Issued on short notice because of a lost or expired travel document.

But on the second look, the green passport model, which was substituted in 1987 with the new red machine-readable EU model, reveals its curiosity. The woman’s birthplace was given as Musanga in German East Africa (GEA). Wow, what a find!

Musanga is nowadays in the Southwest of the Democratic Republic of Congo. GEA’s area was 994,996 square kilometers (384,170 sq mi), nearly three times the area of present-day Germany and doubled the area of metropolitan Germany then. The colony was organized when the German military was asked in the late 1880s to put down a revolt against the activities of the German East Africa Company. It ended with Imperial Germany‘s defeat in World War I. Ultimately, GEA was divided between Britain, Belgium, and Portugal and was reorganized as the League of Nations mandate.

But here is the twist of the story. The woman was born in 1934 when GEA was already 16 years obsolete!

Why did the passport office issue her birthplace Musanga as Dt.-Ost-Afrika? Did they take over old/wrong data from her passport application? Did nobody at the passport office verify her data? Maybe, nothing of the above reasons because we are talking here about German Colonialism in the time of National Socialism.

In 1934, a year after the Nazis came to power, German colonial politicians printed propaganda on postcards: “Here, too, lies our habitat!” was emblazoned on the globe showing the African continent. On it were the contours of the four former German colonies: Togo and Cameroon, German East Africa, and German Southwest. A coconut palm rose on the right edge of the picture, its rich fans providing shade for Africa. In front of it flew the Reich flag and – especially emphasized – the swastika flag. A quotation from the “Führer” lent the idyll higher consecration: “There are a great many things that Germany must obtain from the colonies, and we need colonies just as much as any other power.”

Since then, German colonial revisionists agitated against this alleged “colonial guilt lie” in speeches, papers, and submissions to the Reich government. They cultivated the myth of “strict but just” German colonial rule and claimed that the French and the English had had no right to rule Togo, Cameroon, German Southwest (today Namibia), German East Africa (today Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi), and the German empire in the South Seas (Papua New Guinea, Bismarck Archipelago, Northern Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Mariana Islands, Caroline Islands, Palau, Samoa, Kiautschou) from the map of the German Empire.

In 1927, the centrist politician Konrad Adenauer, then-mayor of Cologne and vice president of the German Colonial Society in 1931/32, declared: “The German Reich must absolutely strive for the acquisition of colonies. In the Reich itself, there is too little space for the large population. It is precisely the somewhat daring, strongly forward-looking elements which could not be active in the country itself but find a field for their activities in the colonies, who are constantly lost to us. We must have more space for our people and therefore colonies.”. Adenauer will become 1949 Federal Germany’s first Chancellor. By the way. Heinrich Göring, the father of the later NSDAP politician Hermann Göring, was the first Reichskommissar in “German Southwest Africa” from 1885-1891.

While influential national conservative circles in the Weimar Republic advocated returning the colonies to the German Reich, Hitler initially rejected this path for tactical reasons. It is true that he, too, aspired to world domination as a long-term goal, with or against Great Britain (and its former and new colonies) and in the struggle against the USA. Hitler was still considering an alliance with Great Britain, which would have given him a free hand for his expansion in Europe. Nevertheless, the Nazis established a Colonial Policy Office of the NSDAP, KPA, as early as May 1934. However, the office had little power and no executive authority. Some large colonial associations voluntarily allowed themselves to be brought into line in the Reichskolonialbund in 1936.

In 1935/36, Hitler changed his tactics toward England. Now he demanded the return of the colonies as a means of pressure and baited against the British. On March 7, 1936, when German troops occupied the Rhineland, Hitler, for the first time, ultimately demanded in the Reichstag that the “overseas territories” be returned to Germany. The British took this threat seriously and, within the framework of their “appeasement” policy, also tactic with the “colonial question. In fact, they officially offered Hitler colonies in 1937 in exchange for limiting Germany’s rearmament. Hitler refused, preferring to do without the colonies for four, six, eight, or ten years so that he could continue to use them as a foreign policy maneuvering mass.

At the end of 1937, the Nazi regime shifted to an openly anti-British course specifically aimed at acquiring colonies. The colonial movement and colonial literature received a new boost. While the Reichskolonialbund had 40,000 members in 1936, it had two million in 1941. Hitler’s doctrine of first conquering the “Lebensraum in the East” and then the “Ergänzungsraum” in the colonies, especially in Africa, continued to apply.

The German colonies in Oceania and China already had less weight than the African ones during the Weimar period. Accordingly, on December 27, 1940, the Axis powers had agreed to divide the world among themselves: Germany and Italy were to dominate “neighboring” Africa, while Japan was to control all of Asia and Oceania.

Since 1941, there had been talking of a Central African Empire under German rule that would stretch from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean; across the continent from the Gold Coast (Ghana), Dahomey (Benin), Togo, Western Nigeria, Southern Niger, Cameroon, Belgian Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo), French Equatorial Africa (Chad, Central African Republic), to Uganda, British East Africa (Kenya), Tanganyika (Tanzania), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), Nyasaland (Malawi) and Southwest Africa (Namibia). The Nazis wanted to rule the north of Africa together with the fascists of Italy and Spain. To this end, they had planned numerous cities on the African coast as military bases – as bulwarks against the USA. In addition, German companies were to be able to exploit raw materials successfully. The Nazis had already stipulated this in the armistice agreement with the French collaboration regime in Vichy. Co-use of his Imperium Romanum was to be agreed with Mussolini after conquering the Middle East and northeast Africa (Libya, Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Jordan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, Aden, Turkey, Albania). In the south of the continent, the Nazis expected – after a victory over England – an amicable division of power with a fascist government in the South African Union.

With its invasions of Poland, Scandinavia, and neighboring countries to the west, the regime created a “New Europe” in 1939. In the war frenzy of the summer of 1940, the vision of rapid expansion southward without a fight seemed feasible. Belgium was occupied, France had capitulated; the French colonies in Africa were within reach. The budget for the Colonial Policy Office was now increased considerably. After all, the colonies were to feed the future “Greater German Empire.

The East African island of Madagascar had been assigned a particularly perfidious role by fascist Germany. Four million European Jews were to be deported there. In September 1940, numerous agencies from the Foreign Office to the SS were working on the “Madagascar Plan.” The island was to be turned into a huge ghetto. Resettlements of Jews in Eastern Europe were halted after the AA received instructions from the Reich Security Main Office in mid-August that to “avoid permanent contact of other peoples with Jews, an overseas solution of insular character” was preferred. Madagascar Plan

The colonial administrative apparatus of the Nazi regime was in full swing from 1940. The Oranienburg Colonial Police School trained police officers and officers, the SS planned its own police force, selected men and women were prepared for their duties as future colonists, maps of Africa were printed, railroad networks were designed, and health primers were translated into African languages. Nazi jurists drafted laws designed to prevent “miscegenation.” The so-called Colonial Blood Protection Act prohibited “marriages of Germans or foreigners” with “natives,” “members of the colored native population from non-German areas,” and “half-breeds.” In case of violation, the natives were threatened with the death penalty; extramarital sexual intercourse was also prohibited. Madagascar Plan

But the course of the war spared Africa fascist enslavement.

In 1944, the Allies drove the German troops out of North Africa; the French puppet government in Vichy, which had collaborated with the Nazis, had to surrender the colonies it controlled to Free France. Britain and France remained dominant in Africa after the end of World War II. German interests shifted to the economy. For years, Germans maintained good economic relations, especially with the military dictatorships in Nigeria and the apartheid regime in South Africa. Officials never dealt with the plundering of African countries during the colonial period and the planned enslavement of almost the entire continent by the Nazis. Madagascar Plan

modern German passport
A modern German passport with birthplace German East Africa. Madagascar Plan


I contacted an expert on German Colonial history and I share the same view.

Dear Tom,
I have never seen anything like this! Either a correspondingly inclined employee of the city of Göttingen has acted here, or, what is more probable, the person has presented the passport office with a birth certificate issued in 1934 by a German authority in the sense of revisionism, which was simply taken over by the employee and not questioned. In Musanga (Uha) in the British Mandate Territory of Tanganyika, there was a mission station of the Orphan and Missionary Institute Neukirchen under the leadership of the missionary W. Brinkmann and their wife in 1936. In addition, the missionaries W. Brinkmann and W. Schulz appear there. -Dr. Heiko Wegmann- Read more details (in German) at https://www.freiburg-postkolonial.de/index.htm

A large part of this article is taken from the book (pp. 35-40): Rhenish Journalists’ Bureau. “Our Victims Don’t Count” – The Third World in World War II. Editor: Recherche International e.V., 444 pages with 400 photos and 10 maps, published March 2005 and translated into English by the author. Madagascar Plan.

FAQ Passport History
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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...

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"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...