Unusual Jewish Escape Route In 1940

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Meet Chaja Szkop (Polish spelling, later would have been spelled Chaya Shkop) from Bransk, born in Bielsk Podlaski in the Bialystok region of the Polish border. She would have been 26 years old at the outbreak of the War, was unmarried, worked as a schoolmistress. Unusual Jewish Escape Route


There was a large Jewish community (around 2400) before the War. This area was handed over to the Russians (after being taken over by the Wehrmacht) as part of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact – thereby sparing the Jews until 1941. Many Jews fleeing from the Germans crossed the border during 1940 – and some were sent to Siberia by the Russians. Another (older) woman from the same town, with the same name but married, was murdered in Treblinka. The Shkop family is related to a famous Talmudic scholar, and one of the leading rabbis before the War named Rabbi Shimon Shkop – who was a rabbi in the town of Bransk in 1907.


Our passport holder crossed over from the Russian-occupied area into Lithuania in 1940; using this Lithuanian Certificate of Identity (passport), there is another stamp from Vilna. Regarding the Chinese visa. Until August 1939 – no visas were required to enter Shanghai – but this document is from 1940. The visa was issued 12 Dec 1940 by the Chinese consul in Stockholm / Sweden – and that is unusual. Why would a woman who made it to neutral Sweden continue to Shanghai? Unusual Jewish Escape Route


Page 85 explains quite something…

…an article in the China Press of February 26, 1940, for example, stated that visas are NOW required for Shanghai…and further…a letter to New York and Lisbon mentioned clearly that the Chinese consul in Stockholm is granting visas without difficulties.


A most unusual and interesting travel document during the war and Holocaust, and here are the pictures. Unusual Jewish Escape Route


Szkop Chaja_CN_Visa_Stockholm_1940-002Szkop Chaja_CN_Visa_Stockholm_1940-003



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...