Postal history and postage stamps of Gdansk

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The postal history of Gdansk forms a philatelic area. It developed in particular due to the subordination of the city of Gdansk and its surroundings to the League of Nations as a result of the First World War and the issue of its own postage stamps from 1920 to 1939 and also includes the pre-philatelic era and the period before 1920.

Early postal history

After the second partition of Poland (1793) was Danzig Prussian and it was established a Prussian Post Office. With the defeat of Prussia by Napoleon , Danzig became a "free city" under the French governor Jean Rapp and received a French post. After the Congress of Vienna Danzig came back to Prussia and there was Prussian mail again.

Postal history of the Prussian city of Danzig until 1920

At the beginning of the 19th century it was common in Prussia to use cash franking with a day stamp for franking . The first postage stamps were introduced in Prussia in 1850 . After the founding of the North German Confederation , a North German Post District was set up in 1868 , and its postage stamps were used equally in all member states. After the establishment of the German Empire in 1871, the Deutsche Reichspost , which started issuing stamps from 1872, took over the postal service in Gdansk until 1920. Shortly after the founding of the empire, an Oberpostdirektion (OPD) was set up in Danzig.

Postal history of the Free City of Danzig (1920–1939)

The Post Office of the Free City of Gdansk

The city of Danzig and its surroundings were converted into a state subordinate to the League of Nations on January 10, 1920 with the entry into force of the Treaty of Versailles , represented by its High Commissioner based in Danzig.

In terms of postage, Danzig initially remained in the German Empire. There were no new postage stamps and even the postage increase in the German Reich was completely taken over on May 6, 1920. It was not until June 14th, the day the “Constituent Assembly” opened, that the “Reichspostdirektion Danzig” issued its first own stamps. From June 16, the "Post and Telegraph Administration Danzig" (PTV for short) regulated the issue of postage stamps. Up to and including July 19, the use of the German brands as “followers” ​​was still permitted. From July 20th, only the Gdańsk postage stamps were valid in the national territory. It goes without saying that foreign stamps from all members of the Universal Postal Union , which one joined on October 1st, were valid , provided they were stuck on "reply cards" as additional postage.

On December 24, 1920, the town of Pröbbernau on the Fresh Spit was returned to the German Empire. After the previous demarcation, farmers from Pröbbernau had to cross the state border every morning and evening and show identification papers - now they were no longer separated from their fields. The Gdańsk postage stamps were not immediately declared invalid, but the Reichspost allowed them to be used up until March 31, 1921. Because only a few stamps with cancellations of the small town from this time are known, they are relatively valuable today.

The city of Marienburg was divided geographically by the Vistula tributary Nogat and, since 1920, also by constitutional law. The Kalthof district now belonged to the Free State, other districts to the German Empire. The post office, which had already been set up in June 1893, was withdrawn from the day stamp "KALTHOF" and replaced by one with the inscription "MARIENBURG (WESTPR.) 3". This was initially adopted on January 10, 1920 and only changed in autumn 1920. Between October 8 and 13, 1920 the stamp was exchanged for one with the inscription "KALTHOF (FREISTADT DANZIG)". Since January 5, 1921 there has been a variant "KALTHOF (FREIE STADT DANZIG)". Both stamps were in use until early September 1939.

In May 1920 a post agency was set up in Liessau , which used the stamp "LIESSAU (WEICHSEL)" until the end of November 1921. The new stamp “LIESSAU (FREIE STADT DANZIG)” was introduced on January 13, 1922.

As early as 1914 there was a foreign office at Post Office 5 in Gdansk - there were various censorship marks in the First World War . From 1921 there was a day stamp “DANZIG 5 AUSLAND”.

On January 1, 1909, a check office was opened in Danzig, which was renamed the Post Check Office in 1920. Bank statements that went abroad had to be sent postage paid. For this purpose, circulating postage stamps were glued to the letters. The earliest known day of use of a day stamp "DANZIG" SCH.A. "" was June 19, 1920 - so still in the "follower time". The use of machine stamps has been known since January 9, 1918. Up to April 3, 1945, postmarks can be proven. This is possible because before the Russian occupation of the city of Danzig, this post office was relocated to Köslin and then even to Berlin on January 26, 1945 .

Danzig was an important telegraph station in the German Empire. In 1894 a telegraph office was set up and immediately had a date stamp. This was taken over in 1920, and a new type of stamp was added in 1927.

In 1920, the “Wanderlager” for those willing to emigrate was set up on the Troyl, using a day stamp “DANZIG - WANDERLAGER TROYL”. A post office in the camp opened on August 6, 1920 and closed again on August 31, 1921. Stamps that are canceled by hand with "TROYL" come from unfortunately dismantled R-letters .

In the next few years, some unprofitable post offices were closed, such as Rambeltsch on June 30, 1921. On September 30, 1922, the Kleinmontau post office was relocated to Mielenz . On January 11, 1922, it was still equipped with the new day stamp "KLEINMONTAU (FSD)". As planned on October 1, 1922, operations at the Mielenz post office began. The last known stamp day is January 17, 1945. On March 28, 1923, the Groß-Plehnendorf post office was closed and it was permanently using the stamp assigned to it in 1909, an "FSD" stamp was not obtained. The Trutenau Post Agency, which has existed since 1890, received an "FSD" stamp in May 1922; it was closed on November 30, 1923. In the Gdansk city area, post office no. 3 was closed on September 16, 1923 and only reopened on February 14, 1930.

The stamps of the Free City of Gdansk

Postage stamp from 1920

The first Gdansk postage stamps were postage stamps of the German Reich in which the word “German Reich” was deleted and an oblique blue-black or burgundy-red imprint “Danzig” was printed. The starting shot was fired on June 14, 1920: eleven stamps appeared, four stamps were only issued later: the red 40s, the brown 1.50s and the 3 and 4 M stamps.

The star temporary arrangements

It became apparent as early as the end of July 1920 that the 10-pfennig stamp was slowly running out. In the “Druckerei Sauer” the published 20-pfennig stamp was overprinted with stars over the numerals and a big 10 in red. About 3.9 million brands should last for a long time. There were also unused stocks of the 30-pfennig stamp, which were made into 25-pfennig values ​​with green imprint (circulation approx. 2.3 million stamps).


Since the German Reich, or better known as the Reichspost, did not take back stamps that were invalid in the Free State from July 19, 1920, pleasant overprints for the writing “Danzig” in cursive were procured. The first values ​​appeared on August 20: Germania stamps with the imprint Danzig and the inscription "German Reich" overhead. The values ​​are 5, 15, 20, 25 and 75 pfennigs. Of course there were some plate defects in the printing plates used, as the material used was not very good for their manufacture.

On this day, too, six stamps with denomination-increasing imprints on the stamps Deutsches Reich Michel -Number 84 II, 99, 102 and 103 were issued in different fonts of the face value as well as "Danzig". For the one-mark stamp that was also issued, however, Danzig no. 5, which was published on June 14, 1920, was used. mainly negative pressure peaks upwards or downwards. This resulted in partially deliberate pressure deviations. When the new denominations were then printed, there were of course misprints - mostly because of bad printing material and less on purpose. These stamps were mainly used to frank parcel cards, so relatively ugly cancellations are common.

Small back office

The next very distinctive day in Gdansk postal history was August 30, 1920 - on this day the stamps from the “Small Office Service” appeared. Here again, italic prints were issued, made on stamps that had been returned to the Post Office Main Office due to invalidation. However, partly on stamps whose unchanged nominal values ​​could no longer be used for individual postage - there was an extremely violent wave of speculation, the result of which was courtesy devaluations, false stamps and even overprint forgeries - these also with forged stamps; it still comes to this today.

On August 30, 1920, the "large inside service" followed - also a residual consumption with an even more violent wave of speculation - and on September 29, 1920 the first airmail stamps.

The market values ​​published on August 20, 1920 were issued again on November 1, 1920 with a slightly different color of the underprint. These stamps were also mainly used as parcel postage. Despite their later appearance as the first airmail stamps, they are cataloged according to the small and large office staff. The delivery mode at the post office counter is very similar to that of the later GDR . Receipts of this series of 60 Reichspfennigen, 1 M and 2 M should be treated with a certain degree of caution.

Deviating from the chronological order in the cataloging, three "temporary star arrangements" were published in November 1920: On November 1, 1920, one value in blue with a 5 on a 30 Reichspfennig stamp of the first issue, on November 20, 1920 two values on this 30-pfennig stamp of the first issue: 60 with a reddish-brown overprint with double prints that were actually sold at the counter and a value with a blue 80 printed on it.

Proclamation marks

January 5th, 1921, the first day of the sawtooth-like pierced "cog edition" on the occasion of the proclamation of the Free City of Danzig on November 15, 1920. This edition was rich in test prints, some of which are genuinely canceled. Furthermore, individual stamps are often afflicted with puncture errors. There was an improvement to this series: The values ​​of 25, 40 and 80 pfennigs appeared again on March 11, 1921 - but perforated as usual. Now separating these stamps, which are often required in the postal service, was as easy as ever. Nonetheless, the perforated 80 pfennig stamp is less common than the pierced one - despite the relatively high circulation. The reasons for this are not known.


The flight ban issued by the Allies for the German Reich also applied to Danzig, but it was possible to use foreign airlines from Berlin. From October 1st to 19th, 1920 the airmail shipments were transported by train to Berlin and from there by plane. From October 20th it was possible to transport letters by plane from Gdansk to Berlin, where they were transferred to the planes of foreign airlines. Nevertheless, there are some documents from this period from October 20, which received the flight mail confirmation stamp in Berlin and are sent to the German Reich. Weather conditions made it necessary to stop all airmail traffic as early as October 30, 1920.

From April 1, 1921, the Danzig postal administration was allowed to use the German airmail network. The first airmail line to the German Reich connected Danzig and Berlin in the west as well as Königsberg in the east. Airmail sent from Gdansk to Berlin on April 1st is very rare. It is unclear whether there were airmail shipments in the opposite direction. In any case, on April 2nd the airmail could not be delivered, the reasons for this flight cancellation are unknown today. The last day of validity of these first airmail stamps was June 30, 1922.

On May 3, 1921, airmail permanent stamps appeared in face values ​​that were adjusted to the airmail surcharges: the "Series II". Ironically on the day of publication there was a flight cancellation - documented by the flight cancellation stamp from Berlin. A short time later, in addition to the nominal values ​​of 40 pfennigs to 5 M, a supplementary value with a nominal value of 10 M appeared.

From around the middle of May 1921 there were many set letters, but also correct postage letters - and these also from non-philatelists. A new oval airmail stamp was also used on the first day in the post office in Danzig 1.

Hyperinflation and the introduction of the guilder currency

Postcard around 1922

On October 31, the new stamps appeared in the new currency: The Danziger Gulden to 100 Guldenpfennige replaced the previous German currency. It was pegged to the British currency, the pound sterling (£): 25 guilders were equivalent to £ 1. Hence the minting of 25 gold coins in gold in Berlin, which were stored there at the Reichsbank - as the material equivalent.

The Polish Post Office in Gdansk

Postage stamps of the Polish Post in Gdansk

Poland was allowed to set up its own postal service to supply mail in the port of Danzig . On January 5, 1925, ten Polish letter boxes were hung across the city and Polish postal workers made their mail deliveries in Gdansk. A lengthy dispute arose between the Gdańsk and Polish authorities about the admissibility of these measures. On the basis of the opinion of the Permanent International Court of Justice dated May 11, 1925, the League Council called upon made the decision that Polish post boxes were allowed to remain hung in a more closely defined area, which included the port and the entire city center of Gdańsk, but not in the outer city districts . However, these mailboxes were intentionally hung on buildings owned by Poles. So no Gdansk or German could legally do anything about it. Something was done anyway: These red mailboxes were painted black and white and thus got the color combination of the old empire.

The Polish Post Office in Gdansk initially only used Polish postage stamps with the imprint "PORT GDAŃSK". But even with the start of the airmail service on the part of Poland, purely Polish postage stamps were used - despite protests, this was expanded with higher denominations such as 1 zloty and the postage stamps used in Poland.

On September 1, 1939 , starting at 4.45 a.m., there was a battle at the Polish post office in Danzig , at the same time as the warship Schleswig-Holstein attacked Westerplatte, which was also occupied by Poland . Both positions had been fortified and armed by Polish military personnel and were supposed to defend themselves for at least 6 hours, after which the Polish troops should have arrived for relief. At 7 p.m., those of the original 57 defenders who had survived decided to surrender. All were later sentenced to death for allegedly belonging to an illegal combat group. The judgment was overturned as unlawful by decisions of the Lübeck Regional Court in 1996 and 1998.

The siege of the Polish post office in Gdansk is portrayed in the novel " The Tin Drum " by Günter Grass .

Postal history 1939 to March 1945

A censorship agency was already active on September 1, 1939: It used a rectangular stamp in red with the inscription “Prüfstelle Danzig I”. It is to be investigated here whether it was still active after September 5, 1939.

Postal history from March 1945

Even after the formation of the "Danzig Kessel" on 23/24. In February 1945 there was still the possibility of faster mail delivery to the rest of Germany than ship mail : delivery by airmail with the addition of a 5 Reichspfennig stamp for the airmail fee. This was not only possible for field post participants, but also for the civilian population. On March 18, 1945, the last flight to Berlin took off from Danzig-Langfuhr airfield.

After the fighting for the city of Danzig, the "Post Office 5" at the train station remained almost undamaged, and was temporarily put into operation by Polish exiles as soon as possible. The vanguard of the Polish postal administration arrived on March 30, 1945 and took over the post office from the Soviet military administration on April 5. The first mail arrived on April 17th and was brought from Praust by two postmen on bicycles . The next day, the same postmen took the first items from the post office, which still exists today as the post office "Gdańsk 2", for the post office Tczew 2 on their way back.

On April 18, 1945 the passenger airline Warsaw - Olsztyn - Gdańsk was opened. On April 20, 1945, she promoted the first letters from Warsaw via airmail and the same day the first broadcasts went off to Warsaw. The first rail mail reached the city from Bydgoszcz on May 1, 1945 and the connection with Gdynia was restored on the same day . In some post offices, German day stamps and official seals that were left behind were still used as long as no Polish stamps were available.


  • Official Gazette of the Post and Telegraph Administration of the Free City of Gdansk . (1921–1934)
  • Annual report of the Post and Telegraph Administration of the Free City of Gdansk . (1927-1936)
  • Carl Köhler: Basic statutory provisions on the post, telegraph and telephone system of the Free City of Danzig . Danzig [u. a.]: Stilke, 1928
  • Heinz Schaffrath: The post of the Free City of Danzig and its postage stamps . Giessen 1991
  • Dieter Schenk : The post office of Danzig - history of a German judicial murder . Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1995, 1st edition, ISBN 3-498-06288-3
  • Franz Skibowski: The Polish Post in the port of Gdansk . Gdansk, 1928
  • Circular of the Arge Danzig.

Web links

Commons : Postage stamps from the “Free City of Danzig”  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Notes, individual references

  1. The Arge Danzig , which was founded in Gdansk (since 1991 as a registered association), has been in existence since 1936 , a working group for the care and research of Gdansk philately supported by the Association of German Philatelists.
  2. From all over the world. In:  General Tiroler Anzeiger / Tiroler Anzeiger / Tiroler Anzeiger. With the supplement: "The German Family" monthly magazine with pictures / Tyrolean gazette. With the illustrated supplements: “Der Welt-Look” and “Unser Blatt” / Tiroler Anzeiger. With the evening edition: “IZ-Innsbrucker Zeitung” and the illustrated weekly supplement: “Weltguck” / Tiroler Anzeiger. Tagblatt with the illustrated weekly supplement Weltguck , September 30, 1920, p. 7 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / maintenance / tan