Identification card

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Identification card of the German Empire, exterior view
Identity card for the German Reich, Maria Fischer , October 5, 1942, interior view

The identification card was introduced in the German Reich by the ordinance on identification cards of July 22, 1938 ( RGBl. I p. 913) as a "general police national ID card". The ordinance came into force on October 1, 1938.

All German citizens who have reached the age of 15 and have their place of residence or permanent residence in Germany were given ID cards on request . The local police authorities were responsible for receiving the applications and the passport authorities for issuing them. The identification cards were issued twice; one copy remained with the authorities. The administration fee for the exhibition was RM 3.00 ; In certain cases - especially when ID cards were required - it could be reduced to up to RM 1.00 or omitted entirely.

Identification card requirement

The ordinance authorized the Reich Minister of the Interior to introduce mandatory identification cards for certain groups of citizens . On the basis of this authorization, three announcements of July 23, 1938 (RGBl. I p. 921 ff.) Introduced an identification card requirement for

  • male German citizens within three months before reaching the age of 18 (entry into compulsory military service),
  • German citizens over 15 years of age when applying for ID cards in " local border traffic ", and
  • Jews as defined in the “First Ordinance to the Reich Citizenship Law ”.

For the latter, the notice contained a number of additional provisions:

  • Jews had to point out this property when applying,
  • after reaching the age of 15 they always had to identify themselves by means of an identification card upon official request,
  • they always had to point out this property in official traffic and present the identification card and
  • the administrative fee for issuing identification cards to Jews was never reduced and amounted to three RM.


The identification cards were in DIN A6 format and were made of gray, linen-reinforced paper. They contained the registration and description data, a passport photo and prints of the holder's forefingers, the place and date of issue, the name of the issuing authority and the signature of the issuing official. Proof of fee payment was partly provided by an affixed fee stamp, partly by a note. Identification cards for Jews were also provided with a capital letter J.

post war period

After the end of the Second World War in post-war Germany, the right of identification was further developed through laws and orders of the Allied military governments , in particular the racially discriminatory regulations were removed.

The identification cards were initially used. The national emblem (imperial eagle with swastika ) contained in the form during the Nazi era was covered with a sticker that contained the text “This ID card is provisionally valid” as well as the date and the name of the authority.

In the Federal Republic of Germany , since the Basic Law came into force, the federal government has had a legislative framework for registration and identification. On this basis, the Federal Law on Identity Cards of 1951 and the implementing laws of the federal states were enacted. It was only after this that the identity card was finally replaced by the identity card . The older population continues to use the word “ID card” for identity cards.

Where the duplicates of the identification cards deposited with the local authorities have been preserved to this day, they are often the only way to find portrait photos of victims of the Holocaust .

Web links

Wikisource: Regulation on Identity Cards  - Sources and Full Texts
Commons : Identity Cards (1938–1945)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files