East German Passport 1983 with unusual visas

My friend Mat pointed me to a captivating GDR passport from 1983 with visas to unusual destinations. The bearer was Prof. Dr. med. Dieter W. Scheuch, born 26.04.1930 in Eisenach, Professor of Pathological Biochemistry. He worked at the University of Dresden from 1970 to 1994. In 2015 he became a city council member for the left party for some years in Dresden. East German unusual visas

GDR passport

His passport was issued in Berlin on April 22, 1983, and was valid for ten years. The visas are as follows…

  • Yugoslavia, via CSSR/Hungary April 25, 1983 – Service visa
  • Brasil, April 4, 1984
  • Italy, November 10, 1987
  • Netherlands, April 15, 1987
  • France, November 14, 1988
  • Italy, May 12, 1989
  • Kenya, January 12, 1990, issued in Moscow
  • USA, June 21, 1990, one of the last visas issued at the US embassy to the GDR

Brazil, Kenya, and the USA were relatively “exotic” destinations for GDR citizens, even for passport holders with service visas. A Kenyan visa issued in Moscow in a GDR passport is surely a curiosity. Also, the history of US relations to the FRG/GDR is an interesting read.

Division of Germany and U.S. Non-Recognition of GDR, 1949 East German unusual visas

Following the German surrender to the Allied powers on May 8, 1945, Germany was occupied and divided into four zones. Each of the main Allied powers (the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France) was responsible for the administration of its zone. In 1947, the United States and Great Britain merged their zones. After tensions arose between the Soviets and the Western powers, the German Federal Republic (FRG, commonly known as West Germany) was created out of the American, British, and French zones on September 21, 1949. The Soviets then oversaw the creation of the German Democratic Republic (GDR, commonly known as East Germany) out of their zone of occupation on October 7, 1949. The United States responded by stating its position that the GDR was “without any legal validity,” and that the United States would “continue to give full support to the Government of the German Federal Republic at Bonn in its efforts to restore a truly free and democratic Germany.” As prospects for early reunification of Germany dimmed, the United States established full diplomatic relations with the FRG on May 6, 1955.

Recognition of the German Democratic Republic

In response to the improvement of relations between the two German governments, representatives of the United States and GDR negotiated arrangements for U.S. recognition of the GDR and the establishment of diplomatic relations, which occurred on September 4, 1974, when the United States and East Germany released a joint communiqué to that effect. Despite this step taken to deal with the reality of the German situation, the United States continued until German reunification in 1990 to view the FRG as the sole legitimate successor government of the historical German state and a future reunified Germany.

 

The American Embassy in Berlin, 1974

The American Embassy in Berlin was established on December 9, 1974, with Brandon H. Grove, Jr., as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim. John Sherman Cooper presented his credentials as the first U.S. Ambassador to the GDR on December 20, 1974. Richard Clark Barkley was the final ambassador in East Berlin, serving from Dec 19, 1988, to Oct 2, 1990.

A fantastic document of East German passport history, and I am glad to have it in my collection soon, in exchange for a signed book of me. 

East German unusual visas

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...