The Schleswig plebiscite was actually two referendums, organized according to the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, with the purpose of determining the future border between Germany and Denmark. The referendums were monitored by representatives from France, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Sweden — a couple of whom were not exactly “impartial” parties!.
Schleswig, located at the southern end of the Jutland Peninsula, had originally been a Danish province. Following the War of Schleswig in 1864, the territory was awarded to the Kingdom of Prussia by the Treaty of Vienna. It eventually became part of the Prussian Province of Schleswig-Holstein. In 1871, Schleswig-Holstein became part of the newly founded German Empire.
After World War I, the Danish, who were neutral during the war, divided the province into three zones, in which separate referendums would be held.
Zone I encompassed the northern and largest part of Schleswig. Zone I was about 75% ethnic Danish and 25% ethnic Germans, but some towns in the zone did have majority ethnic German populations. The referendum for Zone I was held on February 10, 1920, and it voted to become part of Denmark, today, the Danish Province of South Jutland.
Zone II was formed from the central part of the province. Zone II was about 80% ethnic German and 20% ethnic Danish. The referendum for Zone II was held on March 14, 1920, and it voted to remain part of Germany.
Zone III was the southernmost part of the province, and it was almost entirely ethnic German. No referendum was held in Zone III, as the outcome was obvious.
The referendums were, of course, “fixed” by Denmark, by having separate referendums for the zones they had established, based on the ethnic majority populations. In this way, the outcomes were predetermined, and Denmark was able to reclaim a substantial portion of the province that they had lost to Prussia in 1864.
Even though the referendums were not fair, the outcome was peaceful, and the border between Denmark and Germany that was established in 1920 remains to this day.
This German Empire passport from Hamburg bears a huge SLESVIG ruber stamp and a SLESVIG revenue stamp. Here the description from the auction house who sold this treasure for 500 EUR including 25% buyers premium. Congratulations to the seller and buyer (which was rather a revenue collector)!
“10 mk. red fiscally used in a Passpor.t “REISE-PASS” issued 10. Juni 1920 for travelling in Germany and to Wyck a/ Föhr. The stamp is cancelled with violet cachet “COMMISSION INTERNATIONALE SLESVIG 21.MAJ 1920” and with large violet commissions cachet. ONLY FEW PASSPORTS RECORDED, this one is the only one with a 10 mk. stamp. EXTRAORDINARILY WELL PRESERVED.
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?
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 😉
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...