A very special Free City of Danzig Passport – Take a look and learn why

A very special Free City of Danzig Passport – Take a look and learn why

This city on the Baltic coast (presently the Polish city of Gdansk), was detached from Germany in 1919 by the Treaty of Versailles and became a Free City under the auspices of the League of Nations. It was hemmed in by the German exclave of East Prussia (to the east), the Baltic Sea (to the north) and Poland (to the south and west; a narrow Polish corridor to the Baltic separated Danzig from Germany to the west).

A very special Free City of Danzig Passport - Take a look and learn why

As Poland, after World War One had wanted access to the Baltic, and therefore obtained the Polish Corridor. Additionally, Versailles stipulated that Danzig, mainly German, would manage its own internal affairs, but that its external affairs would be presided over by Poland.

Danzig and the Polish Corridor became focal points for Polish-German tensions, eventually culminating in the German invasion on September 1, 1939 – the start of World War Two. After the war, the German population of Danzig (and other eastern areas) was forcibly moved towards the west, and Danzig became the Polish city of Gdansk (later to gain international prominence as the birthplace of Lech Walesa’s Solidarity movement in the early 1980s).

A very special Free City of Danzig Passport - Take a look and learn why

Danzig issued over the years (1920-1939) 3 different types of the passport plus a type for Aliens (which is extremely rare). The passport displayed here is the 2nd type. Over the years I have seen many of these documents. The free city never had more than 400.000 citizens over the years and of course who had a passport back then? Only a small fraction of the population, hence Free City of Danzig passports are rare nowadays.

But let’s have a closer look at this one and we will see this passport has also foreign travels and visas to Switzerland and Italy which is extremely rare! Further unusual findings are the part with the bearer’s signature, it almost looks like cut out from another passport. Interesting is also that applying the blind seal on page 2 with the passport picture made some damage to the page upper corner as probably the sealing tools was just too sharp.

A very special Free City of Danzig Passport - Take a look and learn why

A very special Free City of Danzig Passport - Take a look and learn why
Foreign visas in a Danzig passport are extremely rare to spot. Here Switzerland and Italy.

 

The passport was issued on 11th June 1925 in Danzig, the bearer was born in Odessa. Page 6 shows a residence permit from 1926 issued in Berlin and also in 1925 the earlier mentioned visas to Switzerland and Italy. The last stamp is a border control stamp from Zappot in October 1926.

Doing some research on the bearers name, Roman Schellenberg, I found some entries that he was a long time and loyal friend of German espionage chief Hermann Braun (1897-1951), both were born in Odessa. Dr. Roman Schellenberg was an engineer and working for the German company Rheinmetall, which produced military equipment. Schellenberg past away in 1981 in Berlin.

A very special Free City of Danzig Passport – Take a look and learn why

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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?

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...

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