Click here to skip to content

Philatelic Collections: The Model Collection

In national philatelic collections, visitors usually expect to find comprehensive coverage of the postage stamp issues of that particular country, but it is most unusual to find such coverage of a second country. However that is the situation at the British Library with its remarkable range of the issues of Germany, which are to be found in several general and specialist collections, and including archive material, some of which is not publicly available elsewhere. A part of this exceptional resource is the Model Collection, which is interesting, not only for its historical content, but also the manner in which it was collected and the donor.

Germany - Allied Occupation: 1945 Großräschen - instructional label surcharged 15pf. in manuscript, used to pay postage on a postcard to Stollberg.

Germany - Allied Occupation: 1945 Großräschen - instructional label surcharged 15pf. in manuscript, used to pay postage on a postcard to Stollberg.

Dr Walther Model von Thunen, a Lutheran Pastor, donated the Collection in 1956. In May 1945, he was living in a town in the eastern part of Germany and part of the Russian occupied zone. Dr Model had been a collector of stamps for most of his life, but his collections and his library were lost when his house was looted by members of the occupying Russian army. However like most collectors, he was undeterred by this and started collecting again.

At that time, the Country had been divided into four occupation zones in accordance with the agreements reached at Yalta and Potsdam. The German Postal system was in chaos, as many post offices had been destroyed, and those which had survived only had stocks of Third Reich stamps in stock. The designs of these stamps, which were mainly either that of Hitler’s head or a Swastika, were unacceptable by the Allies for use by the civilian population and required that they be obliterated in some way. This was achieved by using cork ‘killers’, which although crude, were effective, and the efforts in some offices to make these in some way a recognisable design, provides a means of identifying their specific use.

In addition to the use of the obliterated stamps, a huge range of ‘Gebuhr bezahlt’ handstamps were used for pre-paid letters. These handstamps appear in a large variety of shapes, sizes and typefaces and as many offices probably had these already available, it meant that even if they did not have stamps for sale, they could still provide a letter service.

In the Soviet Zone, where the production facilities existed, local ‘stamps’ began to appear but, although the validity of some of them is questionable, many of them provided a service until stocks of the Allied Occupation stamps could be delivered into the post offices.

In the French Zone, the military administration operated a postal service and issued its own stamps, whilst in the British and American Zones, the familiar AM POST stamps were quickly brought into use. Initially, the latter were also used in a limited way in the Russian Zone but they were superseded by the ‘Numeral’ issues in February 1946.

Dr Model concentrated his interest in collecting the local issues, rather than those released by the military administrations, and he succeeded in obtaining a wide range of these issues which demonstrate what postmasters had in their stocks. Interesting examples of the use of ‘Gebuhr bezahlt’ and ‘Taxe percue’ labels to pre-pay letters in the towns of Ellingen and Frankenfeld are included and, whilst the previously mentioned cork ‘killers’ appear throughout the Collection, and unusual example of pen obliteration of a Hitler head stamp can be seen on a cover of 25th May 1945 from Floha. The postmaster of Fredersdorf still had some 1922 Inflation stamps, and chose to obliterate these before putting them on sale. Loben also shows other stamps being used, in this case, those bearing the head of Hindenberg.

Obliterated official stamps, including those produced for use by the Nazi Party, can be found in the material from Glachau, and Gross Raschen shows the use of postal labels with the addition of a value in manuscript.

A systematic examination of the Collection will be rewarded with many other examples of the efforts of the postmasters to reinstate their devastated postal system.

The Model Collection together with a bust of the Collector is on exhibition.


Philatelic Collections
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7635
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7780