Important short-lived WWII related visa
1939 visa issued at the city of Vilnius.
Much has been written during the past 70 years about the events that led to the outbreak of war in 1939. Much has been documented about the important and significant moments, be it in battle or at the home front, on each side that took part in the conflict, be it on the Axis, Allied or the neutral side. Those historical events are remembered and preserved today via the rich archives that hold thousands of documents, letters, diaries and visual testimonies that were given during and after those 6 horrific years that swept around the world like a wild fire burning everything in its path.
But, apart from those memorable moments and events, there are other sides of the war that did not get enough coverage or simply forgotten and from time to time fellow historians or collectors shake the dust off those long forgotten stories and try to shine some light onto those events and make sure they are remembered and not lost. We can thank mainly all those amazing and important on-line forums that exist today for such preservation or unearthing of material that has been lost to time.
This article here will relate to a city that was at the center of the events that were unfolding during the first months of the war, back in 1939 and that continued to take an active role for the coming months. The story that will unfold here will shine some light to a city that for the first part of the 20th century, following the end of WWI and up to the start of the second Great War, faced turmoil and unrest and changed hands frequently: Vilnius.
Vilnius came under Lithuanian control in 1939, after it signed a mutual assistance treaty with the USSR: The Ribbentrop-Molotov pact enabled both Germany and Russia to invade Poland in September (The first on the 1st and the latter on the 17th). The Red Army withdrew its troops from the city, when it over run it in September 19th, handing it over to the Lithuanian government on the 28th of October and the following day saw festive parades and marching of the army inside the city, which became a special administrated zone, though part of the country its status was different: This can explain the Lithuanian official markings and visa inside a pre-war passport that was used extensively during the war as well and also afterwards, up to 1946. The article here will focus on a specific page inside a Czechoslovakian passport – page 10.
The holder of the passport, a Czech Jew, managed to leave his country into neighboring Poland before it was invaded by Germany in March 15th 1939, and again, amazingly escaping in late 1939 to neighboring Lithuania. Most likely arriving into the city before the war broke out in September and then finding refuge as it was captured by the Soviet Army. He was present in the city when it was handed over to Lithuania as mentioned above and thus needed a special exit visa into the country proper, which was issued to him in November 14th. Several days later he exits the city deeper into the country, into Kaunas, receiving a police annotation on the 18th.
These types of visas are unique and special because they were issued for a very brief moment of time from October 1939 to June of the following year, thus being a rare and important addition to a WWII used passport.
Have added images of an ID that was issued before the war when the city was part of Poland and also markings that would indicate it was still used when it changed hands and came under Lithuanian control. Another image is of a special ID that was issued in the city by the “Office Auditor Department of Provisioning food Supply”, most likely assisting refugees that began to pour into the city: it was issued a day BEFORE the Red Army attacked Poland from the east and while the city was still in Polish hands.
Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.