Serving in the dying Reich
Last 6 months of the war – an official’s passport.
We are all familiar with the last months of the Second World War, the events that followed the infamous D-Day landings in Normandy and the rapid fantastic advances made by the Soviet Red Army after crushing Germany’s army group center’s backbone on the Eastern Front, their version of the West’s landings, the overwhelming Operation Bagration.
Now, over 70 years later, we are able to agree on some events and points that caused this massive shift in the tide of the war, actions or lack-of actions that the Axis took that at the end brought the wrath of God and the civilized world upon them. The term “bite off more than one can chew” comes to mind and most historians, collectors and passionate readers of the past events tend to agree as well and accept these words as a description of the behavior of the Axis forces and mainly of one person in particular – an Austrian corporal.
The beginning of the war and the events that depicted Europe during the first 2-3 years were completely different to the final outcome and to the last remaining two years of it.
This war, war of annihilation and utter destruction of everything that was cherished before 1939, the old ways of Europe, an old world that came to an end on September 1st, ushered changes that would be appreciated or shun with disgust and horror for the next 70 plus years. The war that was suppose to end all wars fought 20 years earlier on the continent brought a more devastating war later on and today, sadly, many years after them horrific events, it seems that mankind has learned NOTHING of the past and tends to always repeat them, or part of them.
The month of June of 1944 was a game-changer on all sides: from the West we saw the massive Allied invasion of France and from the East we saw a devastating Red Army’s crushing wave that devoured and destroyed anything on its path, the path to Berlin.
Even as the war was coming to an end by the second half of 1944, some aspects continued to function “normally” as if there was no war at all: the diplomatic actions and relations between the sides, be it Allied, Axis & neutral, that continued to exist right up to the bitter end, for one side, and liberation and freedom of another. The article here will present a document that was issued during the last 6 months of the war, and used in Nazi Germany right up to the last minute; and in some ways shows the “absurdity of reality” of normality, if one can call that, that existed between nations – the issuing of official travel documents that reflected the maintaining of relations between countries even when the unfolding events would expect the opposite of rational or “accepted” behavior.
But today, 70 years after them events, we can appreciate and understand more clearly of the above mentioned “reality” – how can one travel in a country that was utterly destroyed and already collapsing? What I meant was how can one use a diplomatic passport to move between the rubble, destruction and chaos of the time, as if all things were calmer and sane? What motivated or pushed certain individuals to continue to work or serve in a place that seems as if taken from Dante’s Hell? Today, we have come to understand that some of those individuals were being motivated by a higher cause, the desire to save as much as possible when all darkness and disorder was engulfing them…some of these individuals would later be known as Righteous Among the Nations – heroic and courageous men and woman that never lost hope for humanity and worked tirelessly around the clock to save others from the claws of death. It seems that some where pushed and guided by a higher cause, such as famed Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, Chiune Sugihara from Japan, Carl Lutz from Switzerland and others.
Back to the main subject of this article: the usage of an Official Diplomatic passport during the last months of the war, used inside the dying Third Reich of 1945.
Spanish Official passport number 409 was issued to Pascual Coderque Amorós (December 22nd 1899 – January 27th 1982) on October 17th 1944 at Madrid.
Some brief point’s about this individual:
- Policeman, lawyer, inventor, sportsman and sport manager;
- Most of his life he was engaged as a lawyer & police officer (from 1926);
- February 28th 1941 saw him being given a diplomatic position in Nazi Germany which continued for several months after liberation, up to April 8th of 1946;
- On December 19th 1950 was appointed to Commissioner;
- Nine years later in 1959 promoted Provincial Chief in Burgos (Northern Spain);
- He retired from public service on December 22nd
His first 3 years in Germany where placed at the heart of the Third Reich – Berlin. From some research we are able to understand that he was some sort of Home Office liaison officer in Berlin, sent from Madrid, but what exactly where his duties, it remains unclear and a mystery to date. But from the above mentioned travel document it is clear that he returned back home periodically and for his last trip back to Germany, he was issued a new official passport that was then used to travel to Portugal prior to his flight back to Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport , which in pre-war Europe existed three famed international airports: Berlin’s Tempelhof, London’s Croydon and Paris’s Le Bourget Airport. His flight to the capital was on December 16th (during this period of time and for the next coming weeks it was still possible to make use of the airport, but as the Red Army was closing in on the capital it became more and more difficult in doing so – April 21st and 23rd saw the last flights out of the airfields, with the latter heading to Madrid, only to be shot down in southern Germany – these where the last of Nazi Germany’s Luft Hansa’s planes taking off with the next inbound flights being those of the Allies, who landed their teams for the signing of the surrender on May 8th on the airstrip).
Paging through this document we can learn that on the last week of January 1945 it was used to prepare the rightly needed formal exist and entry visas to and from Germany. Pascal received his re-entry visa from the Berlin Polizeiprasident on both January 19th & 25th, followed by a Swiss transit visa (No. 162) issued on the 27th, he then travelled to the Swiss southern border crossing of St. Margrethen Strasse, bordering with the German city of Konstanz (Konstanz -Kreuzlingen Strasse), and crossed over into Switzerland on February 3rd 1945.
Apparently he remained in the neutral country for over a month, crossing back into Germany on March 12th.
But now it seems that he was not going to travel back north to Berlin, which was by then nearly impossible to reach safely due to the Allied advances and the cutting of routes and sections of the collapsing country. Further research has yielded information that shows us that the Spanish Embassy was moved south, with the staff being divided between Konstanz and Bregenz. This would explain his residence permit being issued upon his return to Germany on March 12th and the 22nd for that city and the Swiss visa extension as well, being endorsed at the Swiss Consulate at Bregenz on both April 2nd and 13th (on his earlier stay in Berne from February-March he obtained a residence permit and a return visa).
We can assume that due to the deteriorating conditions in the country and the safety concerns of the Foreign Ministry back in Madrid for its diplomatic staff, he made his final exit back into Switzerland on April 21st via the Kreuzlingen border-crossing, exiting from the German side at Konstanz just after 21:00pm at night.
Further markings and annotations inside the passport would show residence in post-war Switzerland up to the end of 1945.
For those who read and collect material related to the war and its violent end, this document at times can show us a different angle of it, and give us an odd feeling of destruction and demise that existed towards the end on the one side and a seemingly normal travel document that would give us a feeling that the opposite existed, on the other side.
I have added images of this document.
Smaller image source: Wikipedia.
Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.