Nazi Germany US Citizen
A fantastic passport set of two travel documents of a stateless German woman who most likely fled in time from Nazi Germany to become a US citizen. Meet Margarethe Schmidt, born in Magdeburg, Germany, on January 30, 1886, housewife and stateless. Her German Alien passport was issued at the German Consulate in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, in 1934. A German Alien passport issued abroad is something scarce!
The SS Deutschland sunk in a British air attack on May 3, 1945, when it was in the process of being converted into a hospital ship. All people on board the Deutschland survived the attack, though two accompanying vessels sank with significant loss of life.
She was married (occupation: housewife), but why she got her Alien passport in Cleveland is only speculative. Maybe her husband was American? Was she Jewish? Open questions. However, many (Jewish) Germans fled in 1933. With the beginning of WWII in 1939, it was almost impossible for Jews to escape from Germany.
Her US passport was issued in 1953, but I believe that’s not her initial (first) US passport. Being in the US since 1934. Her US passport shows her travels to Germany and the Netherlands from 1953 to 1955. An excellent document set, and I am happy to have it in my collection.
Thanks to Dave Miller, we know now more about the bearer. Dave has a fantastic Flickr site with an outstanding album of old passport pictures did some excellent research and wrote to me as follows.
Hi Tom, I have a comment and perhaps some of the answers you are looking for. I’ve been diving into ancestry.com on our Margarete and have come up with a few records. You didn’t note, but I’m sure you noticed that her passport gives her birth name “Wentzlau,” which proved a vital clue in tracking her.
She was ethnic German, not Jewish. Her third husband was Kurt Schmidt, a toolmaker in Detroit. She came to the US as a 42-year-old divorcee with (I believe) a 20-year-old daughter in May 1928 under Margarethe Iffland. Although born in Magdeburg, she was living in Leipzig at the time of her immigration. She seems to have resolved her “Stateless” problem by 1937 when she travels on a US Passport.
Data as follows:
Marie Margarete Iffland Steil Schmidt nee Wentzlau, born Magdeburg, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, January 30, 1886, daughter of Theodore Wentzlau and Emma Dreyling
May 26, 1928, Margarethe Iffland, aged 42, divorced, arrived on board the SS America (dep Bremen May 16, 1928, arr NYC May 26) accompanied Elli Iffland, aged 20. Both women give their occupation as clerks and nationality as German (Note that Jews are clearly distinguished from other European nationalities at this date). Margarethe’s birthplace is given as Magdeburg, and Elli’s as Leipzig. Both women give their last place of residence as Leipzig and their destination as Detroit. Margarethe’s brother Wilhelm Wentzlau of Magdeburg is given as the next relative in Germany. Their relative in the US is “Father: Mr. Schaubrenner, 5041 Hartwell Ave Detroit.”
On May 8, 1929, Margarete Iffland declared her intention to become a US citizen before the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. She states she was born in Germany on January 30, 1886, and that she is divorced. She arrived at the Port of New York on May 26, 1928. At the time of her declaration, she did not renounce her allegiance to her foreign ruler and said she would do so before being admitted to citizenship.
On June 15, 1929, Adolf Steil of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Margarete Iffland of Detroit was granted a marriage license. Nicolas Steil, Mary Hufflin, Theodore Wentzlaw, and Emma Dreiling are his parents. They were married on June 15, 1929, in Detroit.
On December 17, 1932, a marriage license was granted to Kurt Schmidt of Warren, Michigan, and Margarete Steil of Detroit, Michigan, and they were married in Wayne County. His parents’ names were Herman Schmidt and Annie Kinzil, and hers as Theodor Wentzlaw and Emmy Dreyling. They were married on Christmas Day, 1932, by a Lutheran pastor in Detroit.
In August 1934 she arrived on board the SS New York (dep . Hamburg August 9, 1934, arr. NYC August 17, 1934), stating her birthplace as Magdeburg. She says she speaks and writes German but claims no citizenship. Her last permanent residence was in Warren, Mich. She has a brother, “W. Wentzlau, Magdeburg, Schoenebeckstr. 25”, and her husband is Kurt Schmidt of Warren Michigan. She was a resident of Michigan from 1928-1934, and she last left the US on May 17, 1934.
She seems to be the same Margarete Schmidt who travels to and from Gtraveled on a US Passport in 1937 and 1938 giving an address on Edmore Ave Detroit. The 1940 US Census of Detroit shows Kurt and Margaret M Schmidt living at the same address. Kurt is a die and tool maker in the steel products manufacturing industry.
Nazi Germany US Citizen
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.
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