RARE Memel territory passport - Our Passports
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  • RARE Memel territory passport
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RARE Memel territory passport

 

Part of Lithuania today known as Klaipėda.

 

This coastal city has a long history of changing hands. Today it is the 3rd largest city in the county and in the past it also had a large German community as well.

 

Up to WWI it was controlled by several old German states and this all changed following the Treaty of Versailles. It was under international control up to 1923, under the League of Nations, and following the Klaipėda Revolt of January 1923, it was handed over to Lithuania the following month after rebellious revolt and formation of a pro-Lithuanian administration.

 

A firm German ultimatum made by Nazi Germany’s foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop on March 20th 1939 resulted in the transfer of the Memel Territory to Germany. Lithuania reluctantly was forced to accept the ultimatum 2 days later. The city was captured by the Red Army on January 28th 1945, with most of its inhabitants fleeing to the west; they found only 50 remaining people.

 

During the period the city was under international control, from 1919 to 1923, the residents that wanted to leave for traveling abroad, be it for immigration, business trips or just tourism, had to apply for locally-issued travel documents or passport. This was possible, but the issuing authority was, as was the case with other territories or regions controlled or supervised by the international community, the issuing body was most likely an “Inter-Allied” governing or administrative system that was running the city.

 

Memel Territory passport was issued to Rosa Rubin on September 26th 1921 by the city’s passport office. Exiting and entering of the city was done under the supervision of the “Hafenüberwachung Polizei” (The port-monitoring Police).

 

Such passports are becoming scarcer today and they are highly collectible by German passport collectors. They fall under the category of “regions of conflict” and “WWI related travel documents” as well thus their appeal. What makes this passport extra unique is the fact that it was used to travel to British Palestine, a very rare destination for it being used to ravel too and a first time that I have seen such a passport with that destination stamped inside its pages.

 

Interesting visas inside are the German visas that where applied days after the passport was issued. Visa number 9878 was issued by the “Reichs Kommissar für das Memelgebiet” (German Commissioner for Memelland) on September 28th.

 

Inside the pages we can find other transit visas that would allow Rosa and her 14 year old son to travel to Palestine: she obtained the British visa for the Mandate at Danzig on November 29th, and once in Germany, she could continue to apply for additional transit visas, such as an Italian visa. A boat from Trieste departing on December 16th would take them to Alexandria, Egypt (an Austrian visa that that was affixed on page 12 enabled the two to transit though the country between, entering on the 8th and exiting 4 days later). They entered British Palestine via the Kantara crossing on December 22nd.

 

Additional Lithuanian endorsements from 1924 would indicate that they returned back to Memel, by then under Lithuanian control.

 

I have added images of this rare passport.

 

 

Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.

Neil Kaplan
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