WWI passport issued to a young refugee - Our Passports
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WWI passport issued to a young refugee

1916 issued passport to a foreigner during the war.


We are all familiar with the post-war refugee passports & travel documents that began to appear following the international conference headed by Fridtjof Nansen (Who headed the international department for refugees at the League of Nations) in Geneva on July 3rd 1922. This conference was one of the first attempts that were made to tackle the issue of refugees pouring into the west, refugees that were fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution and the civil war that followed. Large portions of the refugees were also from Jewish decent, fleeing the White Russian attacks. The above mentioned conference, International Conference on Identity Certificates for Russian Refugees, led to an international agreement on the need to issue special travel documents, later known as the Nansen Passport.


The Great War caused borders to shift between the warring sides and as in all cases of hostilities, scores found themselves without a home or shelter. Many refugees fled the hostilities and ended up on both sides. The article here will address a refugee passport that was issued in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire to a young teenager.


Passport number 1235 was issued on August 5th 1916 at Sankt Pölten, in southern Austria of today. Back then it was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The travel document was issued to young David Oks, a Jewish student, who was clearly not a citizen of the empire; this we can deduct from the large hand-writing annotation on the front cover indicating that he was a FOREIGNER (Auslander). His address, and this is the interesting and important section of this document, is given for a refugee camp (Flüchtlingslager) in the district of St. Pölten, Niederösterreich (lower Austria).


The passport has his affixed photograph, this was already mandatory at the time: photographs of the holder were added to travel documents and passports towards the end of 1914, and by 1915 this was a common practice in all such documents.


The passports also indicates that he his formerly from Sosnowiec (Sosnowitz in German), and he was issued a travel visa to that location by the military authorities on August 10th.



I have added images of this early refugee passport.



Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.


Neil Kaplan
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