Nazi Passport Law – The big Red J for Jew

German Nazi Passport Law – The big red J for Jew

1938 REICHSGESETZBLATT, PART I, PAGE 1342

Law on Passports for Jews, 5 October 1938

Based on the law on passport, alien police, and registration affairs as well as on identification affairs of 11 May 1934 (Reichsgesetzblatt I, Page 589), the following is ordered in agreement with the Reich Minister of Justice:

Article 1

(1) All German passports of Jews (Article 5 of the first law to the Reich citizenship of 14 November 1935-Reichsgesetzblatt I Page 1333), who reside in the Reich area, become invalid.

(2) The holders of the passports, mentioned in Section (l), are obliged to hand in these passports to the passport authority within Germany, in whose district the holder of the passport has his permanent residence or in lieu of such sojourns temporarily, within two weeks after this law becomes effective. For Jews who are staying abroad at the time of the publication of this law, this period of two weeks begins with the day of their reentry into the Reich area.

(3) The passports, made out to be valid abroad, will become valid again if marked with a sign designated by the Reich Minister of the Interior, marking the holder as a Jew.

Article 2

Whoever carelessly or willfully does not comply with the obligation described in article 1, section 2 will be punished with prison and fined up to 150 marks or with either one.

Article 3

The law becomes effective with its promulgation.

Berlin, 5 October 1938.

Besides the action mentioned above, Jewish men and women bearing first names of “non-Jewish” origin had to add “Israel” and “Sara,” respectively, to their given names.

Such passports are very rare and are clear evidence of the Holocaust – the genocide of approximately six million European Jews during World War II, a program of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi Germany, led by Adolf Hitler, throughout Nazi-occupied territory. Some Jews were lucky enough to escape abroad with these passports.

The Nazi bureaucracy also gave clear instructions on the size of the “designated sign” – a 3cm large Red J, and where to place it on the cover page. The form of the J, however, was never specified. Hence, we can find plenty of different forms, stamped and handwritten.

German Nazi Passport Law – The big red J for Jew

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...