German ID-Card (Passkarte) History

The Railway changes everything German ID-Card (Passkarte) History

The advent of the railway in Germany in the mid-1830s revolutionized the way people travelled, making long-distance journeys more accessible and less arduous. However, with the increasing number of passengers traveling across borders, the individual ID Card systems of the federal states had to adapt to this new reality.

Gone were the days of relying on cumbersome means of transportation like stagecoaches or horses; by the early 1840s, the railway had firmly established itself as a popular and reliable mode of transportation in the states of the German Confederation.

With the advent of railway transportation, the government was faced with the need to align ID Card regulations with the newfound convenience of travel, initially implementing changes on a limited number of routes. The challenge of cross-border travel within the German Confederation necessitated a thoughtful solution. While it was important to maintain the freedom of movement established in 1817, the government also recognized the need to balance this with emerging security concerns brought about by the increased mobility afforded by the railways. Thus, the government sought to strike a delicate balance between these competing priorities.

Passkarte (Legitimationskarte) German ID-Card (Passkarte) History

German ID-Card (Passkarte) HistoryIn response to the challenges posed by the increasing cross-border railway travel, the Passkarte was introduced as the solution, initially known as the Legitimationskarte. Its implementation was carried out on January 1, 1842, following a circular order issued on December 10, 1841, to the Royal Governments of Potsdam, Frankfurt, Liegnitz, Magdeburg, and Merseburg, as well as to the Royal Police Presidium, which dealt with passport control on railways. The introduction of the Passkarte was also in conjunction with the ordinance issued on December 6, 1841, and it was designed to address the needs of cross-border railway travel between Prussia, Saxony, and Anhalt.

Passkarten were issued using a uniform pattern, featuring the coat of arms of the respective state, as had been the case since 1842, in order to facilitate control and prevent counterfeiting. They were valid for one calendar year and were numbered and recorded in a journal, similar to a personal identification register, which included the cardholder’s description. The fee for obtaining a Passkarte was five Silbergroschen.

Passkarten for the entire federal territory

The Dresden Agreement of October 21, 1850 finally regulated the use of Passkarten for the entire federal territory. It came into effect through a circular order issued to all Royal Governments, concerning the general introduction of Passkarten in place of passports, on December 31, 1850. Referring to the regulations required for railway travel, local restrictions on the issuance and applicability of Passkarten were lifted.

Starting from January 1, 1851, the Passkarte was no longer limited to railway travel, but was now required for all types of travel by citizens of the states that had acceded to the treaty (Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, Hanover, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Saxony-Weimar, Saxony-Altenburg, Saxony-Coburg-Gotha, Brunswick, Reuss-Plauen, Schaumburg-Lippe, Bremen, Hamburg) who were not subject to passport requirements. This was established by the circular order issued on December 31, 1850, concerning the general introduction of Passkarten in place of passports, which lifted the local restrictions on issuing and using Passkarten, with reference to the regulations required for railway travel.

Although Kurhessen and the Anhalt governments did not participate in the Dresden treaty negotiations, they were invited to join the “Passkartenverein” (Passport Card Association) after the fact, which they did around the same time or shortly thereafter, with respect to its entry into force.

With the ordinance issued on December 31, 1850, initially, Sachsen-Meiningen, Anhalt-Dessau, Anhalt-Köthen, and Anhalt-Bernburg joined the “Passkartenverein,” and with the announcement on March 8, 1851, Kurhessen, Nassau, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, and Lübeck followed suit.

From January 1, 1860, the Passkarte also allowed for easy crossing of the border between Germany and Austria.

World War I German ID-Card (Passkarte) History

During World War I, the Passverordnung (Pass Regulation) required individuals to have a passport or Passkarte to enter the German Empire. In addition, military documents, Heimatscheine (proof of citizenship), or other official documents issued by German authorities that provided unambiguous identification as a German were accepted. Foreigners residing in the area of the state of emergency (i.e., the entire empire except for Bavaria) were generally required to have a passport or Passkarte.

With the Regulation on the other arrangement of passport requirements on December 16, 1914, the passport requirements were revised. This now also included the requirement for a passport for leaving the country. Although Passkarten were not explicitly abolished, the regulation only referred to passports.

This effectively eliminated the possibility of using Passkarten for identification. For the first time, a passport photo was legally required and it was regulated how it should be included in the passport. It had to be glued, stamped, and annotated with a note confirming that the passport holder was indeed the person depicted in the photograph and had personally signed the passport.

New Pass Regulations

Starting from January 1st, 1915, the new Pass Regulations came into force, requiring the use of passports with photographs. For the first time, passports included a photograph of the holder, with children often being photographed together with their parents, and family photos sometimes being used with other family members cut out.

Passport photos from this early times are most curious and I love to collect them. But that’s another story…

Details of the displayed Passkarte

A rare type of Alsace-Lorraine issued in 1901 to nobleman Major Maximilian von Korff-Krokisius born 1854. In 1893 Maximilian von Korff-Krokisius was a Prussian captain in Infantry Regiment No. 49. His father was Edmund Krokisius, Prussian lieutenant in the Uhlan Regiment No. 6, stepson and adopted son of Prussian district administrator Heinrich Freiherr von Korff zu Waghorst.