On browsing the SIP website the “Our Fields” screen lists the 16 categories comprising the scope of our philatelic and postal history interests. I plan to continue my survey of the individual sites for you, having begun this investigation with my last blog a few months ago. The Holocaust, as viewed by the philatelist and postal historian, will be today’s subject.
One need only examine a recent philatelic auction catalog devoted to Judaica to note the extensive array of material being addressed. One major area of collecting and research is obviously concentration camp mailings. Figures 1 and 2 are examples of these form letters mailed from one of the most notorious death camps- often written by inmates who had already been put to death by the time the communications were mailed. I will address this type of philatelic enquiry in a separate blog shortly. The letters, not infrequently written under duress to lend a sense of false civility to the Nazis actual activities, are sensitive, tragic and poignant. Collecting this material, and reading or having someone translate for you the contents will invariably become an addicting philatelic endeavor.
A separate area of Holocaust postal history is that related to letters, official notifications, Red Cross mailings and other war-related communications pertaining to military personnel, civilians and prisoners of war caught in the maws of the global conflict in territory controlled by the Nazis. A great deal of this field is devoted to the Jewish experience, but also captures vividly the similar experience of other “marked” racial, ethnic and national groups, including, among others, Polish non-Jews and Catholic clergy. Survival was always in doubt, and life under threat of punishment, harassment and execution at the whim of a perverse totalitarian state was a maddeningly daily experience. The intriguing material in this subset of Holocaust material runs the gamut of experience bringing a palpable reconstruction of the tragedy to light.
A third group of material considered part of, but not exclusive to, philatelic Holocaust collecting and study is broadly captured by the term “ephemera.” In this case it’s somewhat of a misnomer, taking into account the definition of ephemera as items of collectible memorabilia originally expected to have only short tem usefulness or of no lasting significance. This Holocaust material is breathtaking in scope, of indelible, long-lasting consequence in terms of historical documentation of the “unbelievable,” and an area of interest to postal historians, psychologists, sociologists, philosophers, and any and all who have an interest in moral philosophy. Postal history and philatelic catalogs will show extensive collections of ephemera available: anti-Semitic literature including posters, manuscripts, pamphlets; government licenses restricting Jewish professionals’ activities; edicts restricting Jewish activities; and paraphernalia including yellow Star of David cloth insignias to be worn on clothing, and paper money printed for use within forced Jewish ghettos and certain concentration camps.
These are by no means all of the areas of Holocaust collecting, study and research available to the interested collector on a readily accessible basis; but, certainly sufficient to attract a goodly number of you I’m sure. This is a most challenging, extremely meaningful and, yes, sad area of avocational interest. I can think of hardly any others, however, of greater personal impact in terms of intimate connection with concepts of morality, humanity and their tragic opposites.