On May 7, 1945 Field Marshall Alfred Jodl signed an unconditional surrender on behalf of Germany’s military forces. The signing took place at General Dwight Eisenhower’s headquarters in Rheims, France. This event marked the end of Hitler’s ambitions.
This unconditional surrender on Germany’s part launched a chain of events that has created many collecting opportunities for stamp collectors. All of this started with a meeting of the Allies at Yalta, in the Crimea in February 1945. There Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt attended a conference to outline a policy and methodology to “establish order to Europe” and “rebuild national economic life.”
The policy was supposed to enable the liberated people to destroy the last vestiges of Nazism and fascism in general, replacing them with democratic institutions. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as planned. Many historians place the beginning of the Cold War to the Yalta Conference.
The pact signed there by the Allies set out a plan that would divide Germany into three occupation zones, each of which went to each of the major Allied powers, Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States. Eventually a fourth occupation zone was carved out for the French out of the British and American occupation zones. According to the agreement, the occupiers would “possess supreme authority with respect to Germany.”
Eastern was given to the Soviet Union, northwest Germany became the British zone, south and central Germany became the American zones, and western Germany was allotted to the French. Similarly Berlin was split up into four occupation zones at a later conference in Potsdam.
After World War 2 was over, the Soviet Union blockaded the land routes into Western occupied Berlin. This led to the great Berlin Airlift and the construction of the Berlin Wall. Allied occupation of Germany started in 1945 and officially ended with a formal declaration on May 5, 1955.
Unfortunately the Soviet occupation really didn’t end until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the final withdrawal of Russian troops through the 1990s. This confusion over the end of the occupation is reflected in the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue listings for the various occupations.
The job ahead of the occupying forces was daunting indeed.
It included the disarmament and demilitarization, dissolution of the various Nazi institutions, repatriating German POW’s, restoring a semblance of normality, feeding and housing displaced persons and providing security.
Postal services were established within each occupation zone as quickly as was possible. The American and British occupation zones shared common stamps inscribed with “A M Post Deutschland.” The Scott catalog lists these stamps under “Germany” in the “German Occupations.” Section.
These stamps were offered to the French and Russian occupied zones, but were not accepted. There were three types of the first stamps used. They were the Type 1 Washington Printing, Type II London Printing, and the Type III Brunswick Printing.
These stamps were used in 1945-46, and were replaced with different designs after this point. The new stamps were known as Numerical-design stamps inscribed with “DEUTSCHE POST” and were used throughout the British and American Occupation zones.
These and the subsequent stamps issued for the American and British occupation zones through 1949 were clearly occupation issues, but they are listed with the regular postage stamps of Germany with catalog numbers that are not prefixed with the Scott letter “N” referring to an occupation stamp.
In July 1946 the British and American zones merged their respective economies together. In January 1947 the administrations of the British and American zones were combined to form an entity known as “Bizonia.”
Various definitive and commemorative stamps quickly followed in quick succession. Many stamps were overprinted with multiple post horns in conjunction with a currency reform in 1948. These overprints can be found doubled or inverted. Always beware of forgeries with these stamps. The French issued stamps for general use in their occupation zone. France also issued occupation postage, occupation semipostal, and occupation postal tax stamps for the individual German states that they occupied.
Separate French occupation stamp issues ended in 1949 when the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany came into effect. France continued to occupy the German state of Saar until 1957. Saar was a German state wedged between Luxemburg and France. Over the years Saar had passed in and out of French control several times. French intentions were to detach the Saar from Germany permanently.
The French formally remove the Saar from their occupation zone in 1947 and established it as a French protectorate. The French administration issued various types of stamps for the Saar region from 1947 through 1956.
In 1955 the voters of Saar rejected a referendum that would have permanently separated the Saar from Germany. The Saar formally rejoined Germany on Jan 1, 1957. Saar was formally admitted to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1959.