Early East Germany 1950s Passports

early East German passports
While reviewing my East German (GDR) passport collection I found out that I have far more documents than on my collection list. I guess I was a bit sloppy documenting all my acquisitions over the years. I also did some archive research and found some good leads to very early GDR passport topics. The numbers in brackets are the archive numbers.

Otto Grotewohl, the first prime minister of the GDR, contributed to the COA design himself. His first design was reflected in the first drafts of passports. The compass was still missing but the hammer and corn garland were Grotewohl’s design.* Book: Der ehemalige Preussische Landtag…, Siegfried Hermann, 20014, page 64

The German Federal Archive has the estate of Grotewohl (NY 4090/3) and documents also several diplomatic passports. Without an archive visit, it’s not possible to see when they were issued. I am not sure if the below-mentioned early passports were still without a compass as I have never seen such early passport types. The earliest GDR passport in my collection is from June 1955, the year when ordinary citizens were able for the first time to get a passport. I have never seen a passport before June 1955! early East German passports

9 January 1950, the ZK discussed the first draft of regulation for diplomatic and service passports (DY 30/J IV 2/3/77).
17 February 1950, the ZK released provisions for diplomatic and service passports (DY 30/J IV 2/3/85).

early East German passports
Model 1959
GDR Diplomatic passport
1950s diplomatic ID card

24 March 1950 topic one in the protocol (DY 30/J IV 2/3/95) was listed: Service passports for a GDR delegation to the USSR. I did not found out yet who the members of the delegation were. early East German passports

Dienstpass (Service passport) model 1957

1 February 1951 (DY 30/J IV 2/3/171) documents as point 27 in the protocol the issuance of a service passport for comrade Heinz Willman. Heinrich (“Heinz”) Willmann (* July 9, 1906 in Unterliederbach; † February 22, 1991 in Berlin) was a German KPD functionary. In the GDR, he was a functionary in the Kulturbund and the Peace Council, as well as a diplomat. early East German passports

4 October 1951 (DY 30/J IV 2/3/238) lists as topic twenty-four of the meeting the issuance of a service passport for comrade Oskar Fischer. Oskar Fischer (* March 19, 1923, in Asch, Czechoslovakia; † April 2, 2020, in Berlin was a German politician (SED). He was Minister of Foreign Affairs of the GDR from 1975 to 1990.

3 June 1952 (DY 30/J IV 2/3/295) lists as topic eight of the protocol the issuance of a passport for comrade Fritz Beyling. Fritz Beyling (* January 4, 1909, in Burgörner; † February 9, 1963, in Berlin) was an editor and German politician (KPD/SED) and resistance fighter against National Socialism. In 1947, he was elected state chairman of the Association of Persecuted Nazis (VVN) in Saxony-Anhalt. From 1951 to 1953, Beyling was secretary-general of the VVN and vice president of the Fédération Internationale des Résistants (FIR). passport issues East Germany

Model 1955

early East German passports

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...