MfS passport control at the inner-German border

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60 years Berlin Wall MfS passport control

From 1964 at the latest, MfS employees of the later passport and control units of HA VI, dressed in border troops uniforms, completely took over the control of entries and exits at the Güst (Grenzuebergangsstellen or border crossings) under Order 40/64. Not least, this was intended to prevent escape attempts, e.g., by means of passport forgery or smuggling of persons in vehicles, and to ensure compliance with the transit regulations. MfS passport control

MfS passport control
Source: The Stasi and the Berlin Wall | DW Documentary

To control the people in and out, East Germans and foreigners, was a goldmine for the Stasi. Who are these people, and where do they want to travel? Inconsistencies in a travelers document were enough to pull them out of line and have a talk with them. If someone was politically relevant, the officer reports to the relevant department for further investigation/actions. This is how millions of people find their way into Stasi’s filing system. MfS passport control

MfS passport control

They were scanned for any possible clue and might even be tricked into accidentally providing evidence against someone close to them; some are registered as potential informants. Each time the “friendly” border guard stepped up to check your passport, the Stasi was watching. MfS passport control

 

MfS passport control
Passport control in an excursion bus

Formed in 1964 from the Passport Control and Investigation Working Group (APF); merged in 1970 with the Travel Security Working Group (ASR) and Ref. A of Department VII/Customs (Abwehr) as Department VI.

Tasks: Continuation of the tasks of the APF; also: passport and personal control in the Berlin area and at Schönefeld Airport through the deployment of passport control units (PKE); prevention of the improper use of GDR traffic routes for transit to and from West Berlin.

Watch The Stasi and the Berlin Wall | DW Documentary (German/English).

A good source on the East German border control is the German book: “Guten Tag, Passkontrolle der DDR,” only available as a second-hand book.

 

FAQ Passport History
Passport collection, passport renewal, old passports for sale, vintage passport, emergency passport renewal, same day passport, passport application, pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट

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...