Danzig-Germany passports for a couple

unique Danzig-Germany passport
Update with additional information from Wohlgemuth’s grandson!

I was very excited to learn of the existence of these travel documents. This period was such a critical time in our family’s history.  I will be glad to fill you in on the details of their lives after arriving here in the states. Karl and Valeria arrived in New York City and were picked up by my Father, Henry Bender.  Henry drove them back to our hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, where they settled and lived for the rest of their lives.  I remember the very day that Karl and Valeria arrived in Erie and came into our home.  It was an inspiring day. unique Danzig-Germany passport

As you mention in your story, the Wohlgemuth family lived in Danzig and attempted to flee the Nazis following their invasion.  They were detained and relocated to Bremerhaven.  My Father, Henry, was a US soldier stationed in Bremerhaven and met my Mother, Waltraud “Trudy” Wohlgemuth, around 1945.  She was only 16 years old at that time, and Henry would have been 21.  Trudy was one of 3  daughters of Karl and Valeria; the other 2 were Gertrude and Gudrun (Gudi).  After the war, my father returned to his hometown of Erie, and in 1947, he paid passage for Trudy to travel to the US, and they were then married on July 8, 1947.  I am the middle of 3 sons to Henry and Trudy; my brothers are Michael (deceased) and Gerald (still living).  Michael was born in 1948, I was born in 1950, and my brother Jerry in 1952.  Henry worked for the US postal service, and Trudy was a homemaker.  Both are now deceased. unique Danzig-Germany passport

Within a year of so, Gertrude and her family relocated to Erie from Germany as well.  Her husband was Hubert Mandel, and they had two children, Klaus and Monika, who also came over.  A third child, Mark, was born here in the US.  During the war, Hubert was in the German military; we believe as a U-boat serviceman.  The Wohlgemuths and Mandel’s lived together in a two-story flat, only 2-3 blocks away from where I lived as a child in Erie.  We saw each other often (weekly), especially on Sundays, when we would have “coffee time” every Sunday afternoon.  This event was a family tradition that we kept for many years, and I have many fond memories of our Sundays and holidays together with our families.  Gertrude, Hubert, and Gudi are deceased.  All of the Mandel children are still alive and live around the Erie area.

Once Karl and Valeria arrived in Erie, they set up their home and began to work.  Karl was an automotive mechanic, and Valeria was a seamstress.  Our families told us that Karl worked as an engineer/supervisor in the German submarine factories in Bremerhaven before coming to the US.  We did not talk much about this for obvious reasons here in the US post-war.  Valeria worked from home.  They lived straightforward lives for many years in Erie, although I had the impression that Karl was not happy about being here.  I feel that he much missed his homeland Germany.  Karl passed away in 1977 at the age of 74 from lung cancer.  Valeria lived until 1990 and passed away due to cardiac complications at the age of 83.  They are both buried in Erie, as are the rest of our family. unique Danzig-Germany passport

I much appreciate your providing us with information on my grandparents and their travel documents. Please let me know if you have any other questions regarding Karl and Valeria or our families. I do not have US passports for Karl or Valeria, and I am not sure if any were ever obtained.  I am okay with you using the information that I provided to you as long as you understand that it is based on my recollection.  I do not know for a fact any of their histories for sure before they arrived in the US.  I would appreciate receiving a PDF file of the final article that you write with any photos. Thank you for working on this piece of history for our family; we are thankful for your work.  Please feel free to contact me with any other questions that you may have.

Best regards, Fredrick H. Bender

Danzig, the city where the hell began in 1939. German troops crossed the Polish frontier and ignited a conflagration that claimed the lives of tens of millions of innocents. This descent into the jaws of destruction has been impregnated on our collective memory by the imagery of gleeful Nazis raising the border post to enter the free city of Danzig and reclaim it for the Reich.

In 1938 Karl Wohlgemuth and his wife Valeria, nee Jezenovski, got their passports from the Free City of Danzig (nowadays Gdansk, Poland). Valeria’s document was issued on April 1, 1938, and the passport from Karl was issued a month later on May 4, 1938. Both papers were valid until 1943. unique Danzig-Germany passport

Throughout the centuries, the port — Danzig to the Germans, Gdansk to the Poles — had been fought over. It is the point at which the Vistula, a crucial trading waterway, issues into the Baltic Sea. Until 1793, Gdansk was ruled by Poland and after the Napoleonic wars integrated into Prussia as Danzig. It was, however, lost to Germany after its defeat in the First World War — it became a “free city instead,” but allowed Poland access to the sea.

After the upheavals of the First World War, Danzig had become a temporary location for stateless and persecuted Jews, seeking a better life elsewhere. Many were camped in a particular transit facility on the city’s outskirts, where Danzig’s Jewish community helped them. In the 1920s, some 60,000 homeless Jews passed through.

The seizure of Danzig in 1939 signaled the beginning of the struggle against Nazism. In 1980, the strike in the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk signaled the birth of Solidarity and the death knell of Communism. unique Danzig-Germany passport

The couple survived the war in Danzig, and they both got their Federal German passports on September 1, 1951, issued in the city of Bremerhaven. Their passports were valid until 1953 but extended until 1956. Karl and Valeria emigrated to the United States according to the US immigration visa from 1953 issued by the American consul in Hamburg.

Hamburg harbor was left on November 20, 1953, and they arrived in New York on December 1, 1953. According to the manifest of arriving aliens at Ellis Islands, they traveled on the MS Gripsholm to New York.

unique danzig-germany passport

unique Danzig-Germany passport


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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...

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...