Diplomatic Israeli passport – Germany 1962
Here is an interesting passport, which has strong connections to the 50 years celebrated these days between Israel and Germany, due to officially establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries.
But in order to understand or appreciate this historic document, we should try and get some background to the special relationship between Germany (Then Western Germany) and the young Israeli state.
Israel was formed after the Second World War, or as a result of the events that happened during that horrific war that swept humanity for a period of six and fateful years. During a period of about 4 years,
over 6 million Jews found their death at the hands of Nazi Germany and its allies. And due to this, after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Israel was torn between not wanting any ties with the German people and also between the efforts to find allies and friends in its first years of survival, in a hostile Middle East not willing to accept it. For this reason, when Israel issued its first travel documents, it was clearly stated inside that the document was valid to travel to countries with the exception for Germany. This was marked by a hand applied rubber-stamp, placed into ALL travel documents and passports up to around 1965. Should an individual have just cause to visit Germany, well, then this clause had to be omitted by the passport issuing official and then a special permit to travel to Germany was added inside. In official printed material regarding the issuing of visas for traveling abroad, as seen in this 1951 image attached here, travel to Germany was not permitted except for the following reasons: Life threatening issues or rescuing of property. We also know that other reasons were permitted, for example: Studies, commercial or official government business.
Already in 1948 Israel opened official offices in occupied Germany, for example Munich (headed by
Dr. Chaim Hofmann and later by Eliyahu Livne, consul) and in Berlin (run by A.Borstein acting Immigration officer). These were offices mainly dealing with assisting the Holocaust survivors in immigrating to Israel. And such offices continued to exist throughout the 1950’s, then changing eventually to legations. Israel’s main legation was located in the city of Koln headed by Felix Eliezer Shnaer, an economist who was sent to overlook the reparations from Germany to Israel, following the signing of the Reparations Agreement between David Ben Gurion and Konrad Adenauer in 1952. One of the legations attaches was a young businessman named Oswald Sharef, born in Prague and who immigrated to British Palestine in 1935. He was assigned the task of economic attaché & commercial delegate in West Germany.
What makes his passport interesting is the special Diplomatic visa issued to him by the British Consulate General in Haifa on October 24th 1962: Prior to the establishment of official ties, the British Government was responsible for representing Germany in Israel, so the visa was issued by them. He entered Germany in early November the same year via Holland.
Full Diplomatic relations were established in May 12th 1965, but this was not taken lightly by the local population in Israel: heated debates and demonstrations followed the formal declaration of such relations (the Eichmann trial ended a few years earlier, opening old war time wounds, and a fresh reminder of past events; all this did not contribute positively to the high emotions at the time).
This is a nice reminder of past events that today we take for granted, but at the time had great significance.
Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.