"The Department of German Interests" - Our Passports
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  • WW1 German passport in the US
  • "The Department of German Interests"
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“The Department of German Interests”


Swiss legation issued passport from 1921.


This is the second sample that I have located; and would consider a rarity since not many have surfaced during my 10 years of collecting old passports.


Here is an important World War One travel document that was issued due to special war-time circumstances.


During the First Great War of 1914-1918 not all warring countries had diplomatic relations properly addressed or represented abroad.


Some neutral states took the task of legally representing the interests of various countries around the world, for example, we can find the Swiss, Swedish and Spanish consulates representing German, Austrian and even Russian interests in the US or Europe.


The passport in this article will relate to one such example: The Swiss consul in charge of representing German interests in the United States from 1917 to 1921 issued a travel document to a German national from Germany (on February 3rd 1917 Secretary of State notified the German ambassador Johann Heinrich von Bernstorff that President Woodrow Wilson had decided to severe diplomatic relations, mainly due to their unrestricted submarine warfare. The relations were restored on December 10th 1921 following the signing of the “Treaty Restoring Friendly Relations” (the Treaty of Berlin) by both United States High Commissioner to Germany, Ellis Loring Dresel, and the German Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Friedrich Rosen). So the passport here can be considered as one of the last to have been issued.


Swiss issued “German” passport number 11351 was issued to Bruno Seltzermann, from Magdeburg, in Washington on March 11th 1921 by Swiss diplomat at the special department for representing German interests in the US. (originally the first diplomat in charge of “Representing German interests” in the US was Dr. Carl P. Huebscher (during the war he made frequent prisoner of war camp inspections, for example to POW barracks Fort McPherson in Georgia in 1918, on behalf of the German Government)).


The passport was pre-printed on a large sheet with the heading of “Passport for a German Subject“, embossed with the Swiss Legation to the US red seal and clearly indicating that it was issued by the department in charge of German interests.


The passport was used to travel back to Germany, departing from New York on March 31st and arriving at Hamburg nearly 2 weeks later.



Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.



Neil Kaplan
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