The 1944 Gross Born POW Olympics
This single-frame exhibit presents the commemorative stamps, postal stationery and other philatelic material issued to commemorate the 1944 POW Olympic Games at the Gross Born Officer’s camp. Organized under the Geneva Convention, the postal services at this camp, played important day-to-day role by delivering intra-camp mail and served as a social outlet for prisoners to pass the time of imprisonment. The items presented, which include scarce internal usages, demonstrate both the functional importance and social role that the camp postal service played.
During World War II the Olympic spirit was kept alive at prisoner of war camps which were constructed in eastern Germany after Poland’s defeat by the Third Reich. Amazingly, Polish prisoners at the Gross Born officer camp (Oflag IID) were granted permission to hold a version of the “Olympic Games” in the summer of 1944. Though not officially sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee, these games had many of the trappings of the modern day games, including athletic and cultural events, and the awarding of medals.
The exhibit is broken down into 5 areas that showcases the significance and philatelic publicity of this event.
- 10f, 20f and 50f issues (pages 2-6): The exhibit begins with the three stamps issued to commemorate the games. The design of the 10f and 20f stamps reflect the Olympic Rings and laurels, while the 50f stamp shows an ancient chariot racer and the Olympic Rings. Shown are color varieties of each issue, multiples and full sheets. Color varieties exist due to inconsistent availability of the inks used and multiple printings of each stamp.
- Souvenir Sheet (page 7) – Using the design of the 10f, 20F, and 50f issue a souvenir sheet was issued on 14 August 1944, the third day of the philatelic exhibition. The 20f and 50f issues differ as they are printed in olive green and brown, respectively.
- 10f Postal Stationery (pages 8-9) – A 10f postal card was issued in the same 10f design. Notably, this post card is printed on two distinct types of paper as noted by the color variation. Used and unused copies of each variety is presented.
- Philatelic cachet and usages (pages 10-12): During the duration of the Games from 30 July 1944 to 14 August 1944, a commemorative cachet showing the Olympic rings and the dates of Games on a banner was applied to mail. A variety of usages including registered mail and special delivery services is presented.
- RPhilatelic exhibition cancellation (pages 13-16). On the last four days of the Olympic program, a philatelic exhibition was part of the cultural program. Mail processed during this period bore a special double ring postmark with a post horn in the center. Additionally, a new stamp or souvenir sheet was issued on each day. Presented are usages on each day along with each new issue that was launched.
Rarity, Condition & Treatment
- Registered letter bearing 50f Olympic issue and commemorative cachet. Interior of letter sheet (shown in scan) is an invitation to one of the cultural events held during the games. (Title page)
- 10 fen, 20 fen and 50 fen in complete sheets of 10. (Pages 5 and 6)
- Imperforate of 20f issue. (page 4)
- Used and unused examples of the 10f postal stationery.
- on white and grayish paper varieties. Printing: 3,025 cards. (pages 8-9)
- Registered, special delivery cover including 50 fen and 10 fen Olympic issues with commemorative Olympic cachet and day 2 philatelic exhibition cancel. (page 10)
- Registered, special delivery cover bearing 20f Olympic issue. Envelope is created from newsprint demonstrating the lack of resources available. (Page 12)
- Registered appreciation note for the Day of the Seas exhibition. Cover bears Olympic hand stamp cachet. (page 11)
Gross Born Postal Rates During Olympic Period
|Postcards with 10 words||10f|
|Letters to 100g||25f|
|Letters to 200g||50f|
Research and Selected Bibliography
Bura, Fabian, “The Woldenberg and Gross Born Commemoratives for the XIII Olympiad,” Journal of Sports Philately, February 1965.
Longden, G. Howard, Polish Prisoner of War Camp Posts, 1994.
Podolsky, Sherwin, “The Olympic Movement Remembered In The Polish Prisoner Of War Camps of 1944,” Journal of Olympic History, Spring 1995.