Former GDR Diplomats sacked after reunification

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The diplomats of East Germany have been the most dissatisfied with German reunification than any other group. After 1990, their dreams of working in the diplomatic service were dashed. For me, as a German, learning more about the aspects of reunification is always fascinating. Details that may not have been available at the time or have been withheld are now available. Former GDR Diplomats’ reunification

Former GDR Diplomats reunification
Diplomatic passport of Stefan Doernberg (Authors collection)

Stefan Doernberg (* 21. Juni 1924 in Berlin; † 3. Mai 2010 Berlin) is a most interesting figure. He was born as the son of a KPD official in Germany. In 1935 they immigrated to the Soviet Union. He made his Abitur in Moscow. On the day of Operation Barbarossa, he joined the Red Army. He was temporarily interned in a work camp in the Urals because of his German origins, but he returned from his stay there to the front after schooling in the Comintern. As a Lieutenant in the 8th Guards Army, he participated in UkrainePoland, and Berlin battles. From 1983 to 1987, Stefan Doernberg was the GDR’s ambassador to Finland. He was a member of the Peace Council of the GDR and a member of the SED. In 1964 he received the Fatherland Order of Merit in bronze, in 1966 in silver, and in 1984 in gold. 

On May 3, 2010, Stefan Doernberg died in Berlin immediately before a planned trip to Moscow, where he was to participate in the celebrations of the 65th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany at the Russian government’s invitation. Former GDR Diplomats’ reunification

A few groups of professionals from the Eastern half of Germany made it even worse during and after reunification than the defunct Communist state’s former diplomats. Even members of the feared Stasi secret police and officers from the National People’s Army found work in reunited Germany and put their skills to good use. However, this was not the case for the GDR’s diplomatic service, which employed over 2,000 people.

“Despite the aspirations of many of us to continue working in the field of international relations in a reunited Germany, we quickly discovered that there was no such chance,” says Bernhard Neugebauer, a former East German ambassador to the United Nations. “We were also forbidden from serving in any other government agency.” Former GDR Diplomats’ reunification

Deutsche Welle reported about the fate of the East German diplomats in 2010. Read the interesting article in full here.

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...