Passports of an East German Nuclear Scientist

Passports of an East German Nuclear Scientist

Here is an impressive set of two East German passports. One document is from 1958 and another from 1969. Both travel documents issued to Horst Sodan, a nuclear physicist educated in the USSR.

At least since 1984, Dr. Sodan was working at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR), in Dubna, Moscow Oblast (110 km north of Moscow), Russia, is an international research center for nuclear sciences, with 5500 staff members, 1200 researchers including 1000 Ph.D.’s from eighteen states (including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Kazakhstan), members of the institution. Most scientists, however, are eminent Russian scientists.

JINR has at present 18 Member States: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Kazakhstan, D. P. Republic of Korea, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. Participation of Egypt, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Republic of South Africa, and Serbia in JINR activities are based on bilateral agreements signed on the national level. The Supreme governing body of JINR is the Committee of Plenipotentiaries of the governments of all 18 Member States. Contracts are signed on the national level with Egypt, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Serbia, and the Republic of South Africa.

By the mid-1950s, there was a global consensus that nuclear science should be accessible and that only full cooperation could ensure the progressive development of this research, as well as the peaceful use of atomic energy. Thus, in 1954, near CERN, CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) was established. At about the same time, the countries that belonged to the socialist community decided to create a Joint Institute for Nuclear Research based on the INP and EFLAN. Dr. Sodan was several times participant at international on nuclear research. Also, in 1984, at the CERN where he was a delegate from the USSR. Passports of an East German Nuclear Scientist

The Passports

The passport from 1958 is an East German type in the extended version with 52 pages. There are plenty of visas and stamps, including several “service visas,” only for USSR and Poland. The last visa is from 1966. A riddle for me is a GDR-Entry visa issued at the GDR Consulate in Moscow from 1960. He was a GDR citizen, but why they stamped him a GDR entry visa to his home country? GDR passports before 1960 are nowadays rare to find, especially when they are well-traveled like this example.

The 1969 “Temporary Travel Document In Lieu Of Passport For German Nationals” is extraordinary. Why? Because it was issued still be the ALLIED TRAVEL OFFICE on 5 August 1969 and includes a rare combination of ALLIED MILITARY GOVERNMENT revenues of 4 DM and 16 DM. Talking with AMG revenue expert Theo Schalke, who says, “This is the latest issue of this type of passport I know, plus the revenue combination is also rare to find.” Furthermore, the travel document has a visa to Canada(!), which is also pretty unusual for such a type of travel document. Passports of an East German Nuclear Scientist

The Allied Travel Office repealed the rules governing the issue of ‘Temporary Travel Document.’
for the entry of citizens of the GDR into NATO states on 26 March 1970.

The German magazine Der Spiegel wrote an article on the Allied Travel Office in August 1969. Here an extract…
The way out of the GDR into the wide world leads through a West Berlin back door. It is the oak gate at the back of the Prussian Court of Appeal, build in 1913, where the Allied Control Council moved into its quarters in 1945. There, “in the middle of the territory of the GDR” (“Neues Deutschland”), in the basement and Beletage of Schöneberg’s Elßholzstrasse 32, resides the Allied Travel Office (Nato-Slang: Travelboard), which waits for East German citizens for trips to Nato countries to passports — or denies them.

State officials such as managers, pop singers, or scientists — anyone who wants to go from Cottbus to Cambridge, from Vetschau to Versailles or from Rügen to Reykjavik, for example, must first audition with the three liaison officers of the USA, Great Britain, and France. The full article in German is here.   Passports of an East German Nuclear Scientist

Passports of an East German Nuclear Scientist Passports of an East German Nuclear Scientist

Passports of an East German Nuclear Scientist


The Travel Board Officer who issued and signed the document was Wheaton B. Beyers, who joined the US Department of State and the CIA in the 1950s and served earlier in the United States Navy in the Pacific fleet. He made quite a career! Beyers died on 21 April 2017 at the age of 91. Here is his full biography.

Passports of an East German Nuclear Scientist

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...