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Saturday, 20 April 2013

Last Chance to Write: Final Examples from World War Two

This Blog continues the story introduced in the previous two Blogs, looking at letters at the beginning of World War Two following routes which would soon be closed down.

The first cover shown below was sent Air Mail from TEL AVIV 29 NOV 1939 and addressed in English to "Kolomyja" in Poland - though at this point, already in Russian Occupied Eastern Poland. Censored in Tel Aviv  it was routed via Athens - the roller cancel on the reverse is dated 4 XII ... From Athens it travelled to Moscow - a MOSKVA 20 12 39 transit mark also appears on the reverse.
I don't think I have seen the Cyrillic cancellation on the front before. It reads KOLOMYJA / STANISL[aviv] OBL[ast] 12 I 1940. It is not in any Soviet style of this period - there are no Soviet emblems - and it looks as it it has been improvised. But the most important fact about this letter is that it arrived: [Click On  Images to Magnify]

The second cover shown below was sent Express from VILNIUS 22 5 41, just one month before Operation Barbarossa began. The Soviet franking totals 1 rouble 40 kopecks. The letter is addressed to Mersin [Mersina] in Turkey and on the back of the cover is the arrival cancel 17 6 41. From there it was forwarded to Tel Aviv via Cairo - on the reverse there is a CAIRO 3 JLY roller cancel. There is an indistinct roller cancel which is probably a Palestine cancel but the green Palestine Censor tape on its owncan be taken as proof of arrival: [Click On Images to Magnify]

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Last Chance To Write: More Examples from World War Two

This Blog post continues the theme of the previous one.

In the Spring of 1939, Czechoslovakia was broken up into Slovakia - which became a client state of Nazi Germany - and Bohemia & Moravia, a German Protectorate in which German control tightened as time passed.

The ordinary letter below was posted in Bratislava on 31 August 1939 [Poland was invaded on 3 September] and was censored both before leaving [straight line CENZUROVANÉ ] and on arrival in Palestine [pink British censor tape]. There is a mark "bav" which I do not recognise. The pencilled note at the bottom of the cover gives an arrival date of 14 November 1939. As with many covers of this period, a stamp is missing. This is not usually the work of a child peeling off a stamp for a collection. It is the work of a Censor, looking for hidden messages under the stamps [Click on Image to Magnify]:

The Air Mail cover below is postmarked PRAHA 6 IX 39, three days after the Invasion of Poland,  and was subject to Exchange Control inspection - there are white labels on the back and on the front a violet circular D.K. PRAHA 7 cachet [ D.K. = devisovou kontrolou]. It was censored on arrival in Palestine [white British censor tape] but there is no indication of date of arrival or of the air route followed. The cover looks philatelic or is possibly disguised as philatelic, using the new stamps of Bohemia and Moravia:

The final cover shown below does show a route followed, but from the period before the creation of Bohemia and Moravia. Sent Registered and Air Mail from MORAVSKA OSTRAVA  31 X 38, it was censored [ boxed Censurováno ] and passed through Prague Airport  [PRAHA LETISTE 2 XI 38], transiting NAPOLI FERROVIA CORRISP. (POSTA AREA) 4 11 38. Arrival is shown by REGISTERED JERUSALEM 5 NO 38 and REGISTERED TEL AVIV 6 NO 38. 

In this case, my guess is that the high state of alert in Czechoslovakia led the Censor to damage the stamps, Air Mail label and Registration label in a search for  hidden messages. This would be provoked by sight [ top left] of the sender's business: someone who deals in American oil and English grease is involved in a strategically important trade! Of course, it could be a child who did this but it is the frequency with which one sees covers like this that makes me think that it is the work of Censors:

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Last Chance to Write: Some Examples from World War Two

Civil War disrupts the movement of people and post. War stops the movement, usually from a date which can be stated - the day War began. Of course, in the build up to War, disruption normally occurs as well.

In Central and Eastern Europe, as World War Two approached, there were many people trying to stay in touch with family members in foreign countries - or to find ways of getting to those countries themselves. Jews were the most obvious and largest group writing abroad or being written to. If you had a chance to write, then you wrote, and if people wrote to you - that was great news in itself!

Here is a cover sent from what I read as  WIEN 8,  29 8 39 - less than a week before the German invasion of Poland -  franked to 25 Pf. with Hindenburg rather than Hitler adhesives. It's sent to two people with what I take to be a Jewish name [ ... but can someone explain why the name is written as "Bibersteni" and not "Biberstein" ?] living in Jerusalem, then in British Mandate Palestine. The letter arrived - this is shown by the standard British censor tape. Interestingly, there is no sign of  Censorship in Vienna. Nor is there any indication of the route taken by this letter (Click on Image to Magnify):

Much more surprising is this next letter, sent from BAD SCHANDAU 7 3 41 and addressed to Bucharest where it arrived (the backstamp is dated 20 MAR 41) . The addressee ( "Fräulein Dr Lili Simon") has a name which I assume to be Jewish [see now my Footnote*]. From Bucharest, it was forwarded to Jerusalem - and again it got there, as shown by the British censor tape. This letter appears to have been censored when leaving Germany and may have been censored again when leaving Bucharest for Jerusalem. Though Romania formally aligned itself with the Axis powers on 23 November 1940, it still proved possible for this letter to travel to Mandate Palestine. Either Romania counted as a Neutral power or else Palestine did, which would account for a second German censorship when the letter was forwarded. Still, my guess is that the addressee was very surprised to receive this letter, though unfortunately we cannot tell when:

Much less surprising is this final cover, sent from TEL NORDAU TEL AVIV 11 Fe 41 and addressed to Romania [ over a month before the cover from Bucharest], but which got no farther than the British censor in Tel Aviv - after which some other official added on the front in red ink "No Service".This letter was sent after Romania had aligned itself with the Axis but some months before the Iasi (Yassy) Pogrom at the end of June 1941, which claimed between 13000 and 15000 lives:

All three covers are from the drs. Avo Kaplanian collection, sold recently at Heinrich Köhler, Wiesbaden. I will show a few more covers from this collection in my next Blog.

* Footnote added 7 April : Google "Dr Lili Simon" + Jerusalem and you discover that she was a Jewish or Hebrew Christian, engaged in missionary work in Romania until 1941 when political circumstances dictated her move to Jerusalem. Her Christianity explains her c / o address at Christ Church, Jerusalem. During the War, she taught in a Hebrew-language Jewish school in Rehovat where it was known that she was a Christian. It seems that after the War she returned to Germany.