GDR Passport to Cuba – Youth Festival 1978, Havana

GDR Passport Cuba Havana
This East German (GDR) passport was used for travel to Havana, Cuba, in 1978. Not many East German citizens had the chance to travel that far. In October 1962, the ship “Völkerfreundschaft” set course for Cuba for the first time. But the expectations of the vacationers were not to be fulfilled. The Cuban Missile Crisis was to blame. A few GDR citizens had the opportunity to travel to Cuba on the “MS Arkona” and later also by airplane. Enjoy the video. GDR Passport Cuba Havana

The “Völkerfreundschaft” – vacation ship of the GDR

On February 24, 1960, the “Völkerfreundschaft” sets sail from Rostock on its maiden voyage. The GDR’s first vacation ship offered luxurious cruises not only to “deserving workers”.

Rostock has been home to cruise ships not just since the AIDA shipping company. Even in GDR times, vacation ships set sail from the Hanseatic city, on which the “working population” and “deserving activists” traveled to the Baltic region or the Black Sea. Athletes from the GDR Olympic team are also on board. The “MS Völkerfreundschaft” is the first of these socialist dream ships.

Together with the “Fritz Heckert”, named after the Spartacus co-founder and Comintern functionary, the only new cruise ship built for the GDR, the “Völkerfreundschaft” is used from 1960. Later, the “MS Arkona” was added, which was also the ZDF (German) TV dream ship as the “MS Astor”.

The “ship of misfortune” becomes a vacation ship

The ship had already become sadly famous before its first voyage under the GDR flag in February. On July 25, 1956, still flying the Swedish flag as the “Stockholm”, it collided with the liner “Andrea Doria”, which was twice its size, in a fog bank off the US East Coast. While the Italian ship sank – 51 people lost their lives in the accident (five of them on the “Stockholm”) – the damaged ship reached New York and was repaired. In 1960, the GDR bought the ship for 20 million crowns.

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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...