Sometimes you hear astonishing stories from readers, here comes another one. Federal German passport
By Hernan B.G. Schneider, Argentina
Hello Tom, this is the story of my grandfather and his passport. My grandfather was born in Germany in the city of Chemnitz (Saxony), his father, was a German merchant, who represented a German company based in different countries, including Argentina. My grandfather’s name was Hans Kunsch, who came to Argentina at the age of five years in 1919, his father, traveled to Argentina, with a shipping company, and left his son to study in Buenos Aires, in a German-Argentinian school. Federal German passport
Between 1919 and 1939, my grandfather traveled between Argentina and Germany four times. On his third trip, he went to military school in 1932, leaving in the rank of a Lieutenant, and was then sent to the German Embassy in Buenos Aires, to work as a military liaison, since he spoke Spanish perfectly. In 1935, he married my grandmother in Buenos Aires. She was born in Argentina, but of German origin.
By August 1939, all young German embassy personnel was sent back to Germany to become young officers in the upcoming war. My grandfather embarked on Germany and had to leave my grandmother and my mother in Buenos Aires. For him, the war started indeed actively on September 1, 1939, in Poland, then further in France, and Russia. At the end of the war, he was in the rank of a colonel in the Netherlands and could leave Rotterdam with a Red Cross refugee passport in the name of Julio Aníbal Dallegri. Federal German passport
He arrived in Argentina in 1947, where he finally saw his wife and daughter again after eight years apart. He managed to get a job at a German company in Buenos Aires, which helped every German who fought at the front with priority.
He lived quietly under the Peron government until the military coup in 1956 when Peron was expelled. Many Germans began to seek cover in South American countries to shelter them. So many people started to move to Paraguay, and so did my grandfather. When he applied to travel to Paraguay, the Government of General Alfredo Stroessner, hired him and he works for the government for some years to fight against communism in countries like Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay. Federal German passport
He returns to Argentina in the 60s when the new military governments took over, and the economic situation became better. He remained in Argentina until his death in 2005. Like so many Germans, he lived in the high anonymity with a fictional name, even on his grave, with or without being sought for their past.
“When I apply for a passport from the German embassy in Buenos Aires, I showed his old German passport from 1956, pointing to the miniature medal on the photo. The German embassy staff wasn’t much surprised as in the 1960s it was somehow “normal,” as the Germans were seen as patriots defending the country against communism.”
To find a Federal Republic of Germany passport issued in Argentina in 1956 with such a passport photo (and badge) is undoubtedly a most curious finding!
Thank you very much for sharing this fantastic story, Hernan, and for permitting me to publish, much appreciated.
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...