Is this the last passport issued by East Germany?

last passport East Germany

Almost thirty years after the wall came down on 9 November 1989 and twenty-nine years after the German reunification on 3 October 1990, this passport is now on my desk – and it could be the very last one issued by the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

1 November 1989:
Due to pressure from the population, passport- and visa-free travel from the GDR to the CSSR is permitted again. Once again, GDR citizens flock to the German embassy in Prague to obtain their departure for the Federal Republic. last passport East Germany

3 November 1989:
In the evening, Egon Krenz assures in a television and radio speech the SED willingness to renew promises, among other things, a publication of a draft travel law.

5 November 1989:
Over the weekend of 4-5 November, a total of 23,200 GDR citizens will travel to Germany via the CSSR.

6 November 1989:
The SED leadership publishes the announced travel law draft. The total travel period is limited to thirty days per year.

7 November 1989:
Following the CSSR protests, the SED Politburo decides at its regular Tuesday meeting to bring the departure section of the draft travel law into force early and to have a similar regulation drawn up.

8 November 1989:
More than 40,000 GDR citizens have traveled to Germany via the CSSR in recent days. The pressure of the CSSR on the GDR takes on ultimate forms. GDR Ambassador Ziebart is summoned to Prague to receive a request from the Czechoslovak Foreign Ministry.

  • Four officers of the Ministry of the Interior and the State Security (STASI) meet in the Ministry of the Interior to draft a new exit regulation following the Politburo’s mandate. Travel and exit should still have to be applied for. last passport East Germany

9 November 1989:

  • During a smoking break at the Central Committee, members of the Politburo confirm the draft travel regulation drawn up by the officers. It is forwarded to the Council of Ministers.
  • Egon Krenz reads the travel regulation draft in the SED Central Committee, which he now has before him as a draft resolution of the Council of Ministers, including a press release.
  • Krenz hands over the draft resolution of the Council of Ministers and a corresponding press release to Günter Schabowski, who is currently acting as spokesman for the SED Central Committee.
  • International press conference on 9 November 1989 in East Berlin: Günter Schabowski, since 6 November Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED for Information, announces the new travel regulation. When asked by a journalist when the provision was to come into force, he replied: “Immediately, immediately.”
  • A.P. broadcasts as breaking news: “GDR opens border”; DPA at 19.41 hrs: “The GDR border … is open.” The agency reports become the TOP news on television and radio in the primary news time until 8.15 pm. The “Tagesschau” reports, “DDR opens border.”

1 July 1990:
The border control between the two German states became obsolete. last passport East Germany

The passport you see here was issued on 1 October 1990 in Hoyerswerda, just two days before the reunification! I have never seen a later date than this one. What is exceptional at this passport the validity was only two years. Standard was ten years, but I guess during these changing times, the state officials didn’t know how to act. According to the unification treaty, GDR passports remained valid until 31 December 1995. Thus, it would have also been an enormous logistic and bureaucratic obstacle to issue new West German passports for millions of East Germans. By the end of the GDR, only four million citizens, out of sixteen million, had a GDR passport – that’s 25%.

last passport East Germany
One of the last GDR passports issued on 01.10.1990

A real treasure of German passport history, and I am happy to have it in my archive.

P.S. I have in my Federal German passport a GDR stamp – somewhere in May 1990. Also, one of the very last GDR stamps as less than two months later, on 1 July, border control between the two German states were stopped.


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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...