Polish diplomat executed
Pre-war used German passport.
When one collects old documents and passports, sometimes it’s the odd signature or stamp that is inside an old passport that makes the item unique and important historically. The document on its own is the kettle, and as an old saying goes, it’s what is inside the tea pot that determines its value and significance.
The passport here is a regular issued German travel document that was used before the outbreak of war in 1939. The document was issued to a citizen living in Angerburg (Węgorzewo in Polish) which was close to the city of Königsberg in what was part of Eastern Prussia up to 1945 and today part of the Russian Federation (Kaliningrad). Now days the city is located at the north eastern point of the Poland, close to the border with her neighbor Russia.
The city back then was practically untouched by the war and its events during the first years and the sudden change from a peaceful quiet city to a war effected city came towards the winter of 1944-45, when the Eastern Front began to come closer and closer to Nazi Germany and its eastern borders. The overwhelming advance of the Red Army caused panic and evacuation of the region towards the last months of the war, all fearing the wrath and revenge of the Soviet people and its armed forces.
German passport number 920 was issued to Bruno Pusch aged 40, who is indicated as a representative, on December 13th 1938. The document has one single issued visa.
Polish visa number 01478 was issued at the consulate located in Königsberg on December 19th by the consular attaché Witold Winiarski (posted to the consulate in 1937) – his superior was consul general Jerzy Warchałowski.
One of the most exciting part in collecting old passports and travel documents is the research that one puts when locating a new item. Examining every applied stamp, signature and marking inside each page adds to the thrill of the item in ones hands.
Though the passport has only one single issued visa, and not much used, the feeling was that the document was important enough to add to ones collection. And some research and investigating confirmed this at the end.
The important and significant part of the document was the applied signature of the Polish diplomat who issued the visa: Witold Winiarski. Apparently, when war broke out on September 1st 1939, the Polish government, besides holding its embassy in the capital Berlin of Nazi Germany, had around 116 diplomatic missions in the country as well, all who were shut down and taken over by the Gestapo (Polish ambassador to Berlin Józef Lipski and his staff crossed the border into Denmark 4 days after war broke out and the Swedish government took control of Polish interests in the country until November 20th, when the German Foreign Office abolished this status). Attaché Winiarski, together with consul of the Polish legation at Olsztyn Bohdan Jałowiecki, was arrested by the Gestapo on the first day of the war and imprisoned at the German camp of Soldau (Działdowie in Polish), the location was used also to house prisoners of war (see added image) and later changed to a small forced labor camp as well. Imprisonment was not for long, sadly, and some reports put the execution of Witold Winiarski at around mid 1941.
It may seem that mainly the higher diplomatic staff of various embassies managed to avoid capture or exit safely out of the country, and that the lower personnel of the smaller missions were not that lucky and as in this case here tragically lost their lives during the war.
I have added images of this simple and interesting passport.
Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.