A very special East German passport with plenty of US visas came to my desk. The travel document was issued in 1979 and several times extended till 1993. There are five visas stamped to the USA, which proofs the bearer of this passport must have been someone “important.” Traveling to the USA at that time was not normal at all. But I couldn’t find any information on the woman. Even if she was a pensioner, travel to the United States was also for pensioners difficult, but she wasn’t even close to retirement age.
Traveling to socialist countries
For some time it was possible to leave for Poland and ČSSR without a visa. There the Lipno Lake and the High Tatras Mountains were popular destinations. East Germans needed an exit permit if they wanted to go to Hungary to the Balaton or to the Black Sea beach in Bulgaria. Something as exotic as a trip to Cuba was theoretically possible, but not realistic for ordinary mortals because it was far too expensive.
With the FDJ to the USA
A particular form of the west journey was possible for groups of the FDJ (Freie Deutsche Jugend – Free German Youth). Selected members were brought to youth meetings in the Federal Republic (often to “friendly” parties), some even came on organized trips to the Western European states or the USA. Representation of the GDR was one of their most distinguished tasks. And they were to be proof of the freedom to travel so often questioned by enemies at home and abroad.
For border officers in the US, it must have been a strange situation. A great document of Cold War travelling.