Refresher Course

Many different postal authorities issued stamps for occupied Germany

By Janet Klug

This column continues the discussion of collecting the post-World War II occupations of Germany that was begun in the Feb. 27 Refresher Course.

After Germany's surrender in 1945, Germany was carved into Soviet, American, British and French occupation zones.

The American, British and French zones became the Federal Republic of Germany, often referred to as West Germany, in 1949.

Figure 1. A 5-pfennig Berlin-Brandenburg Berlin Bear occupation stamp (Scott 11N1). Click on image to enlarge.
Figure 2. A Berlin 25-pfennig Aerial Bridge to Berlin occupation stamp (Scott 9N170) commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift. Click on image to enlarge.
Figure 3. A German 2-pfennig Notopfer Berlin "Blue Flea" postal tax stamp (Scott RA5). Click on image to enlarge.
Figure 4. An East Saxony 6-pfennig+44pf green Zwinger, Dresden semipostal occupation stamp (Scott 15NB1). Click on image to enlarge.
Figure 5. A Soviet zone 84-pfennig August Bebel occupation stamp (Scott 10N44). Click on image to enlarge.
Figure 6. An East German 10-pfennig Red Army Soldier Raising Soviet Flag Over the Reichstag stamp (Scott 1200). Click on image to enlarge.
Figure 7. A cover mailed from Adelsdorf in the United States zone in 1950. The U.S. Army airletter bears a German 80-pfennig red violet Building definitive stamp (Scott 655). Click on image to enlarge.
Figure 8. A cover mailed in 1949 from Saalfeld in the Soviet zone. It bears a 24-pfennig Ernst Thalmann stamp (Scott 10N37). Click on image to enlarge.

That same year, the Soviet zone became the German Democratic Republic, commonly known as East Germany.

Berlin, the prewar capital, which lay about 110 miles inside the Soviet zone, also was divided into four occupation zones.

East Berlin became part of the German Democratic Republic. The other three zones eventually were merged to become West Berlin, an exclave of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The Soviets were the first to issue occupation stamps for Berlin, beginning in 1945. These stamps are listed after the stamps of the German Democratic Republic in the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue.

A 5-pfennig Berlin Bear occupation stamp (Scott 11N1) is shown in Figure 1. Inscribed "Stadt Berlin" (City of Berlin), the stamps also were good for postage throughout the state of Brandenburg.

The first occupation stamps for West Berlin were issued Sept. 1, 1948. In the Scott standard catalog, West Berlin stamp catalog numbers are prefixed "9N" and are listed with the other western occupation issues following the listings for Germany.

Beginning June 24, 1948, the Soviets attempted to force the capitulation of West Berlin by imposing a land blockade. Berlin was dependent on outside supplies for food and for coal for heating. The Soviets expected to starve and freeze the West Berliners into submission.

The United States and Great Britain responded with the Berlin airlift. The British and Americans flew more than 270,000 flights carrying more than 535,000 tons of food and 1,585,000 tons of coal into Berlin. During the airlift, a cargo plane landed in Berlin every three minutes, 24 hours a day.

In this stupendous undertaking, 31 Americans, 39 Britons and nine Germans lost their lives, but West Berlin was saved.

The Soviets lifted the blockade May 12, 1949. The British and Americans continued to fly in stockpiles of supplies until Sept. 30 of that year.

A Berlin 25pf Aerial Bridge to Berlin occupation stamp (Scott 9N170) commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Berlin airlift is shown in Figure 2.

Because West Berlin was economically prostrate and unable to support itself, the West German government passed a "Notopfer Berlin" (Berlin emergency levy) requiring the use of a 2pf postal tax stamp on virtually every piece of mail from Dec. 1, 1948, to March 31, 1956, with funds raised going to the support of West Berlin.

These small, blue Notopfer Berlin postal tax stamps, known as the "Blue Flea" stamps were issued in several types. A 2pf Blue Flea postal tax stamp (Scott RA5) is shown in Figure 3.

Occupation stamps continued to be issued for West Berlin until after the Berlin Wall came crashing down, and Germany was reunited as one country. The last West Berlin stamps were issued Sept. 27, 1990.

Just as the French did in their occupation zone, the Soviets issued occupation stamps for several of the states or provinces that they occupied in eastern Germany.

In the Scott standard catalog, these stamps are listed following the listings for German Democratic Republic. They include Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, West Saxony, East Saxony and Thuringia.

An East Saxony 6pf+44pf green Zwinger, Dresden semipostal occupation stamp (Scott 15NB1) is shown in Figure 4.

Occupation stamps issued for general use throughout the Soviet zone with catalog numbers prefixed "10N" are found in the Scott standard catalog at the beginning of the listings for the German Democratic Republic, which is what the Soviet zone became in 1949.

The Soviets overprinted Bizonian stamps and Berlin-Brandenburg stamps before issuing a regular definitive series in 1948 picturing communist heroes, such as Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Ernst Thalmann.

These stamps, inscribed "Deutsche Post," feature striking designs that have the look of bold woodcuts. The high-value 84pf August Bebel stamp (Scott 10N44) is shown in Figure 5.

The Soviet zone occupation stamps could be used in any zone, but that arrangement was not reciprocated.

On Oct. 7, 1949, the Soviet Occupation zone formally became the German Democratic Republic.

Stamps issued after that date were inscribed "Deutsche Democratische Republik" or "DDR."

In more than 41 years of existence, East Germany issued thousands of colorful and attractive stamps. A 10pf Red Army Soldier Raising Soviet Flag over the Reichstag stamp (Scott 1200) is shown in Figure 6.

Most of these occupation stamps are quite inexpensive, readily available and are easy and fun to collect. For more challenge, go after all of the varieties and errors that can be found.

If you seek some covers to flesh out the story of the occupation, you will add to the challenge and provide more color to your collection. These, too, are not difficult to find but they will cost more than the individual stamps. You can also collect incoming mail sent to any of the zones from other countries.

The cover in Figure 7 was sent from Adelsdorf, Bavaria, in the U.S. zone in 1950. It was written on a U.S. Army airletter and bears one of the German 80pf red-violet Building definitive stamps (Scott 655).

A cover bearing a 24pf Ernst Thalmann occupation stamp (Scott 10N37) mailed in 1949 from Saal-feld in the Soviet zone is shown in Figure 8.

The occupation zones, blockade, airlift and the rise and fall of the wall are all represented with philatelic materials that can be collected and studied.

A few collectors may still denigrate 20th-century material as being modern and therefore unimportant. But it is now the 21st century. The stamps of occupied Germany are 60 years old.

For more information on all aspects of collecting Germany, contact the Germany Philatelic Society, Box 6547, Chesterfield, MO 63006-6547 or visit the society's web site at