Polish DP Camps in Germany – The Lübeck Complex
A traditional showing of the stamp issues used in Polish Displaced Persons Camps in the vicinity of Lübeck from May through October, 1945.
On January 25, 1945, as the Red Army was approaching from the East, about 6,000 POWs from the Woldenberg officer’s camp (OFLAG II C) were formed into several columns and were forcibly marched westward. On January 30, Soviet armored troops overtook some of the columns and freed about 4,000 prisoners. The remaining prisoners continued their journey until they reached the camp at Fischbeck, southwest of Hamburg. Prisoners from Gross-Born (II D) also marched to camps in the West, All Polish POWs in Neubrandenburg (II E) had been relocated to other camps in 1944.
The Woldenberg OFLAG was one of four Polish camps that printed their own stamps for inter-camp mail. Incredibly, on their westward march they carried their printing press and printing supplies with them. Once they arrived in Fischbeck, sensing impending liberation after over five years of imprisonment, they printed a stamp with the inscription LIBERTAS (Latin for “Liberty”), with the intention of using if for inter-camp mail after they were liberated. (The design of this stamp had been conceived in the Fall of 1944 in Woldenberg).
The design of the stamp included the inscription HAMBURG-FISCHBECK at the base. After printing 300 copies (360 according to some sources), orders were received to relocate the prisoners to Pŏhls. Immediately upon arrival at the new camp, most of the stamps were overprinted, obliterating the name of the previous camp.
Pŏhls was liberated by British troops on May 3, 1945. The newly liberated Poles wasted no time in establishing a postal system for communicating with their comrades in other camps. The over-printed stamps were issued that same day!
Unlike the stamps issued for charitable purposes in many other DP Camps, these stamps were used to fund a real functioning postal system for 5½ months. Every available source was tapped for transportation – the British Army, International Red Cross, Polish Red Cross, UNRRA (United Nations relief and Rehabilitation Administration) and the Polish First Armored Division.
The following pages will illustrate the stamps and postal stationery issued by this remarkable postal service. Usages are shown for all issues.
This Polish Inter-camp Postal Service functioned from May 3, to October 19, 1945. On October 20th, the British occupation authorities granted free franking privileges for all Displaced Persons.