1936 Bulgarian service passport
Two interesting visas issued inside.
Another passport that surfaced recently, and at first glance seemed to be a simple and innocent looking sample, concealed inside at the end valuable information when it comes to visas and their usage inside a passport. These subtle and little crumbs that are laced inside each document, at times, can lead to a surprising find and enrich our understanding not only of the document, but to profound events in history, and in this case to the infamous Anschluss of 1938 and the events that followed after the outbreak of war back in 1939.
The document here is a 1936 Bulgarian Service passport, numbered 016,327/854, that was issued to engineer Dimitre Vassilev Peitshev at Sofia by the central police offices in the city. It was issued for use in the continent, and has various SERVICE visas being issued by these diplomatic missions:
There is also a reason for the above indicated 3 countries, and an explanation will be followed bellow.
Such passports are not that exceptional, with hundreds being issued and used up to the eruption of World War Two. It was a normal custom that nations issued Diplomatic, Special or Service passports and travel documents to their officials who were traveling on official visits and meetings abroad, with many samples being issued by all countries. They are much scarcer and rarer than ordinary passports and are very attractive to us collectors and historians and some have decided to specially concentrate on collecting either service, diplomatic or just regular issued passports.
As before, as soon as this sample was located, I began to carefully page through the document and examine each and every signature, applied visa, stamp and hand-added marking inside. As past experience has taught me, patience and thorough examination of each page can at the end yield rewarding results.
On reaching page 15, I stopped. The applied signature by the Austrian diplomat looked familiar. Realizing that I have seen it before, but at a later stage after 1936, I began to go over specific passports that had GERMAN visas inside. My gut feeling was telling me that the same individual had issued later on a German visa as well. If my hunch was correct, this would make the item here an important addition to ones collection and shedding more light to later events that occurred before 1939.
Strangely enough, two more Bulgarian passports, both Service issues, dating from 1937 & 1938 had the German entry visas issued by the SAME diplomat! This led me to the conclusion that before the Anchluss he was part of the Austrian Foreign Service and AFTER the events of March 1938 he was “absorbed” into the German Foreign Ministry. The signature in both issued visas belonged to Johann Zimmermann, who was born in Moravia in 1888 and was ranked by the FM as Konsulatssekretär I.Klasse. By the time he and his country were taken over by Nazi Germany in 1938, he had already close to 27 years of service in the Austrian Foreign Ministry (he was married to Olga née Schönwald). In 1944 he and the legation staff were captured by the sudden and fast Red Army invasion and takeover of the country he was posted to, Bulgaria, and since that year his fate is not that clear. Further research is needed (though his wife managed to avoid capture when fleeing early enough to Brno the same year).
Up to this point, only one interesting aspect of this travel document was discussed, another interesting addition to this passport can be found on page 13, where we can locate a Polish visa issued by the consular section of their diplomatic legation on April 8th 1936, visa number 73/36.
The visa was issued by Wladyslaw Zembrzuski who was consular secretary in Sofia and right-hand to the Polish Minister Adam Tarnowski. He played an active part in assisting refuge and help to the Polish refugees and soldiers who managed to arrive in Bulgaria after September of 1939, and of transmitting vital information to the international world regarding the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime back in his occupied country (regarding the issuing of assistance and travel documents to fleeing citizens and soldiers from eastern Poland to neighboring Hungary and Romania, please see previous articles that I have written extensively on this subject, which can also be related to the above mentioned).
I have added several images of this Service passport and of the two signed visas by the former Austrian diplomat.
Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.