1934 Latvian passport for the Mandate - Our Passports
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  • 1934 Latvian passport for the Mandate
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1934 Latvian passport for the Mandate


Issued for immigration to British Palestine.


One of my passions is locating travel documents that were issued and used for the strict purpose of immigrating to Turkish & British Palestine. The period that attracts my attention goes back to just over 100 years, starting from the turn of the 20th Century.


The 19th Century saw an increase of Jewish immigration back to their biblical ancestral homeland in the Middle East, the Land of Israel.


For close to 4,000 years, Jewish presence has been maintained in that part of the world and throughout that time Jews living abroad have always yearend to return to the land of their forefathers, to the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.


Immigration to Palestine (the Roman occupational term given to the land that was taken from the ancient Israelites following the destruction for the Second Temple; the name that continued to be used up to the British occupation at the end of WWI which has no connection to modern time Arab Palestine) was not constant and it varied due to the “Political climate” that existed in the region at the time. In ancient times it was mainly for scholar or religious reasons that saw immigration to Palestine. The 15th Century saw another large wave of Jews; this was mainly after the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, the Spanish Inquisition and expulsion of 1492 and Portugal 6 years later. The 18th & early 19th centuries saw thousands of Hassidic Jews flock to the Holy Land and also after religious persecution at the hands of their Christian neighbors. The 19th century saw the beginning of five major immigration waves know as “Aliyah” from 1882 to 1939:


  • 1882-1903 First Aliyah;
  • 1904-1914 Second Aliyah;
  • 1919-1923 Third Aliyah;
  • 1924-1929 Fourth Aliyah;
  • 1929-1939 Fifth Aliyah;


1933 to 1948 saw the next and final stages of “Aliyah” or “Illegal Immigration: the British started to implement quotas and restriction to Jews wanting to arrive to the Mandate and with the rise of Hitler to power in 1933, Jews increased their desire to make the promised land their home. As strong and fierce were the British restrictions, which also contributed immensely to the death of the Jews during the Holocaust, the same can be said about their determination to enter and find any way in, thus illegal attempts where made, mainly by sea. The term of HABRICHA (please see a previous article I wrote about the post war escape organization in Europe ) was given to the illegal and desperate methods the survivors of the Holocaust used in order to achieve this goal after the war. With the termination of the British occupation on May 1948, Jews were finally allowed to fulfill their 2,000 year old dream of entering freely and without condition to their promise land of Israel. Today, Israel stands as a light and beacon of democracy and equality were all races can live freely side by side: Israel has equal rights for women in all religions, for example: Muslims (men and women) serve as high court judges and members of the government, diplomats abroad and more. The same can be said for the other minorities in the country. This is not the case for minorities, such as Christians and Jews, living in neighboring Arab states and even in the Palestinian Authority, where Jews are not permitted to live, women have no true equal rights and has even driven out the majority of the Christians that once dominated Bethlehem.


The passport in this article is an example of a travel document that was used to travel to British Palestine during the period of the Fifth Aliyah.


Latvian passport number 006343 H was issued to Bencions Zelcers and his wife Hanna on December 8th 1934 at Riga. The passport has transit and immigration visas that are normally not found in regularly issued passports at the time. Majorities that are located were issued by Poland & Germany, with the usual routes via Hamburg by boat or crossing into Italy at Arnoldstein and from there to Trieste. Other common routes were to reach the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta, also to use the sea in order to reach Haifa or Tel Aviv.


The passport here is scarce because of the issuing country of Latvia: this is the 2nd sample I have ever seen being issued for travel to the Mandate before 1939. Majority of the Jewish population of the Baltic Sates opted to travel to South Africa, were a large Jewish community thrived. So when I located this sample, I was rather excited.


Most interesting section of the passport was the visa that was issued by the passport control officer at the British consular section stationed in Riga: G.W.Berry. Not much can be located about his actual duties on-line, but paging through the odd passports that I have found and archived, it seems he left his post in Riga for Vienna, Austria. He issued a British immigration visa for Palestine in 1939 and after the war he was sent back to the liberated Austrian capital were he resumed his consular duties up to the early 1950’s (I have added several examples of visas that were issued by this official).


The Zelcers’s obtained transit visas through Poland and Romania in January 1935; crossing into Poland via the Turmont crossing point on the 30th, exiting into Romania at Sniatyn a day later. On February 2nd they sailed from Constanta to reach Haifa five days later.


I have added images of this passport and of the interesting watermark that appears on each page.


Smaller image is of Polish consular official Konstanty Rokicki who issued the transit visa and was stationed at Riga during 1934-36.




Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.


Neil Kaplan
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