WWII Polish emergency passports
Two-month period of passport issuing.
One of my passions in collecting passports & travel documents is to the period of the outbreak of the Second World War. But in order to understand clearly the uniqueness of those short lived issued passports, right after the outbreak of war, one needs to understand the circumstances that lead to these types of documents being issued. And I must say, only after a long period of time, examining each document, and reading about the historical facts of the time, only then did I manage to piece together this puzzle, and to understand the fascinating history of these documents.
Prior to the outbreak of war, the Polish government and its diplomatic missions abroad issued the regular standard blue-covered passports: these were printed on good quality, thick water-marked paper (we can refer to these Polish passports as the last of the 2nd Republics passport issuing type, starting in 1929 and lasting up to the first half of 1945). These passports were also sent to their missions abroad and meant to be issued in cases of renewing of expired passports or some sort of unforeseen emergency, should one occur, and the holder needed one issued to him or her. And such was the situation Poland was facing in September of 1939: The Germans invade the country from the West, and this meant an influx of refugees pouring into its eastern section of the country, with civilians and soldiers being evacuated to the deeper and “safer” sections in the east. For a period of several weeks thousands crossed the border into neighboring Romania and Hungary, with those two countries being sympathetic to their neighbor’s plight (one such border crossing, were the Romanian embassy was even evacuated to, was the city of Zaleszczyki). The situation got worse once the Red Army participated in the hostilities and invaded from the East, for this meant the closure and shutting down of the border once they controlled and occupied the remaining “free” side of the country. So for a period of several weeks the Polish eastern border was relatively open for all those wanting to flee. Those fleeing did so with OR without the proper documentation. Some were issued last minute passports at the still “independent” municipalities in the east side of the country (up to a day before the Soviet invasion) and some managed to get new passports issued to them once they arrived at the Polish consulates in Bucharest, Chernowitz and Budapest.
At first, regular blue covered passports where issued, but once the samples at the diplomatic missions stock ran out, they began to print them locally, but in the form of large folding sheet passports. At the end, even the issuing of fake passports was the case.
We can find today the following types of Polish emergency passports:
- Blue-jacket covered passports;
- Large folding-sheet A4 (and larger) passports;
- Make-shift machine typed passports;
- Fake issued passports for escapees;
Most of these passports bare the similar visas that enabled the holder to escape, mainly to France, were a large Polish army was being built up or the United Kingdom, were the Government in Exile was being formed in London.
We can find the following visas being issued by these consulates/embassies:
An example of diplomats who assisted the Poles in escaping (period of 1939-1940):
Ghigi Pellegrino, Ministro plenipotenziario
Capece Galeota Giuseppe, I segr. Leg. I class
Folco Aloisi de Larderel, Console III class
Pierantoni Aldo, vice Console I class
Talamo Adenolfi Giuseppe, Ministro plenipotenziario
Pansa Mario, I segr. Leg. I class
Farace Ruggero, Console III class
Clementi Raffaele, vice Console I class
Di Franco Oscarre, Cancelliere II class
Have added sample images of several examples of such passports and travel documents issued at the beginning of the war. I welcome any comments and images from your samples, since I am rather fond of this specific period of time.
Smaller image source: Wikipedia.
Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.