A young woman visits Bratislava in March 1945

Spread the love

Many thanks to Zbyšek Šustek, Slovak Numismatic Society at Slovak Academy of Sciences young woman Bratislava 1945

A journey of a young courageous Viennese window-dresser to Bratislava on 28 March 1945

The passport of Margarete Heinze shows that her trip was less dramatic but doubtless had very unpleasant consequences. Her journey took place only four days before the complete liberation of Bratislava by the Red Army, and she passed the only bridge in Bratislava crossing the Danube only two days before its destruction on 2 April 1945 by the retreating German troops. In the last days of March, the front line might run about 20 km easterly from the Bratislava center (Fig. 1) and rapidly near to it. young woman Bratislava 1945

young woman Bratislava 1945
Fig. 1. Dynamic shifts of front lines during the Bratislava-Brno operations of Red Army in March and April 1945 (green – state on 31 March, yellow – state on 1 April)

Some words about the bridge history

The bridge was built up in 1889-1891 and ceremonially opened by the emperor Franz Joseph I. Therefore, until 1918, it bore his name. In 1918-1919 it shortly became the border bridge between Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Then from 1919-1938 under the new name Štefánik´s Bridge, which connected Bratislava with the village Petržalka (Hungarian Ligetfalu, German Engerau), laying on the Danube right bank, which was connected to Czechoslovakia (Fig. 2). Between November 1938 and spring 1945, it again played the role of the border bridge, now between III. Reich and (shortly) Czechoslovakia and, since 15 March 1939, between Slovakia (Fig. 3-4). After the W.W.II, the damaged iron construction (Fig. 5-6) was built anew by the German prisoners commanded by soviet officers; after reconstruction, renamed to the Red Army’s Bridge and in 1990 into the Old Bridge. From 2013-2016 its construction, damaged by corrosion, was replaced by a new, of similar appearance. At both bridgeheads, little toll houses were situated to collect excise. They played the role of the border checkpoints in 1918/1919 and 1938 – 1945. They are preserved up to nowadays. One is transformed in a coffee, in other a little Custom Museum was shortly established in 2015.

The passport and Margarete´s journey young woman Bratislava 1945

young woman Bratislava 1945
Fig. 7-1. Cover of Margarete´s passport with a seal of the Viennese Municipal Authority and one schilling tax mark from 1950

Margarete got her passport in Vienna on 27 March 1945, only 16 days before the liberation of Vienna by the Red Army on 13 April (Fig. 7: 2-4), but with an “optimistic” validity of one year. On the same day, she also got a permit to travel repeatedly to Slovakia (Fig. 7-5) and to use only two border checkpoints – Marcheg, a railway checkpoint near to Bratislava, and Engerau at the Štefák´s bridge, a road checkpoint. She was using other checkpoints between III. Reich and Slovakia would have required to travel trough the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, which was administratively a little complicated. The next day, on 28 March, she promptly got Slovak multiple (permanent) service visa, valid one month, to 28 April (Fig. 7: 6). The next day, on 29 March, she exchanged 3480 Slovak crowns (Fig. 7: 7 above), a considerable amount of money, equivalent to 280 Reichsmarks according to the official, artificially depreciated clearing exchange rate, but according to the Bratislava Stock Exchange Market in 1944 and simultaneously black market 890 Reichsmarks. This sum corresponded to 7-8 average monthly salaries of workers, 1.5 – 2 salaries of well-situated persons, a superior radio cost 2750 crowns. young woman Bratislava 1945

On the same day, she came to Bratislava, stayed there for two days and on 31. March, she returned: to III. Reich (Fig. 7: 5 and 6). However, the momentary situation on the front did not allow her to return home to Vienna. What happened exactly is unclear. But she was attached to an evacuation transport of the Foreign Ministry that ended in a small town Kitzbühel in Tyrol, in west Austria. This fact was confirmed (Fig. 7: 7 in the center), on 1 May in Kitzbühel, by the plenipotentiary of Foreign Ministry for Sudeten (Sudeten – in a proper sense the German name of the Jeseníky Mts. in North Moravia and South Silesia, but on a broader sense all border areas of Bohemia and Moravia populated until 1946-1947 by German majority and in autumn 1938 annexed by III. Reich). This indicates that this transport might pass through the southern parts of Moravia and Bohemia. young woman Bratislava 1945

The purpose of the Margarets trip is unknown. Just hypothetically, based on her service visa and a considerable sum of exchanged money, we can presume that she went to Bratislava to buy something for her profession of window-dresser. Her next destiny is also unknown. It seems that she stayed in Vienna, and at the beginning of the 1950s, her passport was registered by the Viennese municipal authority for the tax of one schilling (Fig. 7: 1), perhaps in connection with asking a new Austrian passport. young woman Bratislava 1945

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...