War Time Swiss Passport
This document is a rare testimony of Swiss citizens in Berlin / Germany during WWII. Learn more about the document itself, the Swiss Embassy in Berlin during those days, and the work of the Swiss repatriation delegation after the end of the war.
During my research, I also learned about Swiss envoy Hans Frölicher, who was, in World War II, one of the most influential diplomats in Berlin. He could have saved many lives. But he was an opportunist and worked as expected. So the myth of Swiss neutrality was destroyed. This interesting story I will tell in an upcoming separate article.
The embassy building is the only building in the inner Spreebogen of the Alsenviertels that has survived the war without any major damage. Just before the war ended, the Swiss embassy was occupied by the Red Army, who led the last assault on the Reichstag from there.
The last Swiss embassy members who stood in the building were locked in the basement for nearly two weeks and then escaped via Moscow and Turkey to Switzerland months later. War Time Swiss Passport
As a “protecting power” little Switzerland took care during the war to protect the interests of more than twenty countries, including the US and Britain.
Schweizer Heimschaffungsdelegation (Swiss Repatriation Delegation) War Time Swiss Passport
After the war, a so-called repatriation delegation (1945-1949) moved into the building. They took care of the Swiss refugees from the former eastern territories and supplied the Berlin Swiss colony with food. The head of the repatriation delegation reported on 20 Feb 1945 to his superior that between Sept 1945 and Feb 1946 more than 4000 Swiss citizens from Berlin and the SBZ (Soviet occupied zone) – which included the former General Government of occupied Polish territories – were repatriated to Switzerland. He wrote further...
“Currently we repatriate 200 citizens a month and I assume this number will increase in the upcoming spring and summer when the travel conditions are much better. Furthermore, we support our citizens with food and dealing with citizen and passport documents”.
The standard Swiss passport was issued in Berlin on 2 May 1942 and valid until 2 May 1945 (a few days before the German surrender) including four resident permits issued by the German General Government in Kraków. The passport itself is in excellent condition. To find a document in this constellation and condition is pretty rare. War Time Swiss Passport
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...