Theodor Heuss Passport – Germany’s 1st President

Theodor Heuss was the first President of the Federal Republic of Germany. He served from 1949 to 1959. His Diplomatic Passport has the No. G0001. Theodor Heuss Passport

A piece of cardboard Theodor Heuss Passport

A worn piece of cardboard, resembling a rag, holds profound significance as a noteworthy artifact in German history. This humble item signifies a crucial period when West Germans could tentatively proclaim, perhaps prematurely, “We are once again embracing our true identity.” Now, it has resurfaced, continuing to tell its tale.

The survival of this paper and cardboard document owes itself to the proverbial “little man” who made the right decision at a crucial juncture, without seeking approval from his supervisor, even though he had already consulted him. The meticulous adherence to federal law and statutes presented a minor loophole, and this individual seized the opportunity, ensuring that everything could be in order and proceed within the bounds of the law.

Winfried Jung

In the mid-1970s, Winfried Jung, the protagonist of this narrative, served as a young civil servant in his early 30s, working diligently in the “passport and visa office” of the Federal Foreign Office in Bonn. Among his responsibilities was the collection of expired diplomatic, service, and ministerial passports, which were then slated for destruction.

The Passport Theodor Heuss Passport

One day, Jung held said rag in his hand, holding a somewhat worn diplomatic passport with the number “G 0001”. The “G” designates diplomatic passports, a “K” corresponding to service passports. This passport is in the name of “Theodor Heuss.”

As a profession, it says “Federal President” – of course in capital letters; before that, someone had at some point set the prefix “Alt” (former). For Jung, this meant: What to do? The travel document of the first citizen of this state numbered according to the first diplomatic passport of the young Federal Republic, which became sovereign with the treaties of Paris in 1955. And now: Into the shredder with it?

Germany's First President, Diplomatic Passport
Theodor Heuss, Diplomatic Passport

Winfried Jung couldn’t do that. As a young man, a radio operator in the German Armed Forces, he had lived in Stuttgart in 1963. It was pure coincidence,” he says today,” that he was just in the city center when a funeral procession passed by with a coffin. Jung followed the train to the collegiate church. Theodor Heuss was buried. Theodor Heuss Passport

What did the first Federal President, the first chairman of the FDP party, mean to the man? Yes, he was already a famous personality, and he was more than popular in Baden-Württemberg. But a world didn’t collapse for me.”

The Rescue of a presidential passport

Over a decade later, Winfried Jung sought guidance from his superior on how to handle the passport. The response was a casual, “Do whatever you want with it.” Consequently, the employee retained the passport for himself, invalidating it page by page with official stamps. Reflecting on this incident today, he is somewhat surprised, recalling how casually his authority treated the passport.

He notes, “This demonstrates the lack of attention given to historical documents that could prove significant in the future.” Doesn’t this incident in Bonn reflect a broader historical forgetfulness within the Federal Republic of Germany? A somewhat indifferent relationship with its own history?

Safekeeping Theodor Heuss Passport

Winfried Jung integrated the document bearing the number “G 0001” into his own passport. “I’ve carried it with me wherever my profession has taken me since then.” As passports expired and new ones were issued, alongside a gun ownership card and some old ID cards, these items found their place in a drawer. Nestled right in the middle was the passport belonging to “Papa Heuss.”

Jung’s Diplomatic Career

What the civil servant Jung, born in 1942, thus almost 60 years later than the (old) Federal President, saw in his life, is also a piece of German (diplomacy) history. He was born in Dresden. Before the victims of the great bombing, he himself confessed as a child: “In the Great Garden, the bodies were lying there as we were walking along, one beside the other, to my right.” Six years later, the mother and her son went to Stuttgart in the West. The father had fallen.

After school, nine years with the German Army. This is followed by a career as a civil servant in the Foreign Service. Training period 1969 in Helsinki: “At that time, the Federal Republic of Germany had only one commercial agency there due to the strong Soviet influence on the country,” recalls Jung. Theodor Heuss Passport

First Post

The first regular foreign position was Khartoum. But even there, there was no regular message: “We were just a protective power – under the protection of the French and their embassy.” It was not until 1972 – young people were still in the country – that he was able to experience how the federal eagle spread its wings on a golden ground in Sudan, the largest state of the Black Continent.

From Khartoum via Bonn to Havana and Genoa, a consulate general that no longer exists. Mogadishu was also a station – “that was shortly after the kidnapping of the’ Landshut.'” Mexico City was another one. Finally, Calcutta. The Iron Curtain broke down.

“Now I was transferred to Warsaw in a lightning strike to reinforce the consular area. There was a great concern in Bonn at that time: Will 300,000 German Upper Silesians knock on our door tomorrow? We didn’t realize at all that so many people had the right to a German passport.” But there were other worries as well: Those who represented Germany in Warsaw at that time could experience the abuse of older Poles, even spitting at them.

Tajikistan Theodor Heuss Passport

In 1993, Jung opened the German Embassy in a new state, Tajikistan. His last regular assignment was until 2007 in Minsk, where he witnessed the surveillance apparatus of an authoritarian state. At the end of his visit, the Foreign Office sent him to Opole in Upper Silesia to work as an assistant at the consulate. This is the largest German passport office abroad,” recalls Jung. “There are about 20,000 to 30,000 passports a year.”

And here, in Poland, Winfried Jung found his second wife and a second home. His old passports are still in the drawer. The passport of Theodor Heuss is still looking for a home. The current passport holder is ready to hand it over to a museum.

What a story! And I wonder where the document is today.

German Diplomat Jung saved the Diplomatic Passport of Germany's 1st President
Thanks to German Diplomat Winfried Jung, this important historical document was saved from the disposal.


Wolf Biermann’s East German Passport


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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...

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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.

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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...