The Passport of Aviation Pioneer Hans Bongers

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aviation pioneer Hans Bongers

The following passport is an important document when it comes to the history of German airline Lufthansa.

aviation pioneer Hans BongersHans M. Bongers was born on 5 December 1898 in Itzehoe. The business graduate is considered a pioneer of German commercial aviation. During the Weimar Republic and under National Socialism, Hans Bongers accompanied the rise of Deutsche Lufthansa AG in leading positions. From 1954 to 1965, he was responsible for rebuilding the German airline in post-war Western Germany. When Bongers resigned from the Executive Board in 1965, he was still represented on the company’s Supervisory Board for several years… aviation pioneer Hans Bongers

After school, Bongers did a commercial apprenticeship in Dessau. In 1918 he joined the aviation company Junkers in Dessau as an employee. One year later, he began his studies, first at the commercial college in Munich, which he continued at the Technical College and University there, graduating in 1921. In 1923, Bongers was then appointed to the management of the newly founded Junkers Luftverkehr AG, which he headed until 1925. In 1926 Junkers merged with German Aero Lloyd to form Deutsche Lufthansa AG, for which Bongers now worked.

When the world economic crisis broke out, Bongers was appointed to the Lufthansa board of directors in 1929. He also assumed the position of traffic manager (The profession mentioned in exactly this passport). In National Socialist Germany, Bongers continued to work in leading positions for the German airline. After the end of the war, he initially worked as an economic consultant. However, Bongers was soon committed to the reconstruction of German aviation in the newly founded Federal Republic. In 1949 he was appointed as a consultant to the Federal Ministry of Transport. aviation pioneer Hans Bongers

When the “AG für Luftverkehrsbedarf” was founded in 1953, Bongers was appointed member of the board. In 1954 he was appointed Director and First Member of the Executive Board of the refounded Deutsche Lufthansa AG. In this way, Bongers accompanied the rise of West German Lufthansa to become one of the most important airlines in the world, in a time of reconstruction and the economic miracle. When Bongers resigned from the Executive Board in 1965, he was still represented on the company’s Supervisory Board for several years. In 1971 Bongers went public with the publication “Es liegt in der Luft” (It was in the air). He died on 23 June 1981 in Bollendorf near Bitburg. aviation pioneer Hans Bongers


A research made it clear that the passport was included in a larger document/item lot at an auction in 2008. Interesting that this very document is now on my desk. Another nice addition to my collection!

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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...