I was in a bookshop and I browsed a book about the history of the visa. It was fascinating and later I decided to read it fully and ordered it online. But what I received was the above book by Martin Loyd about the history of the passport and not of the visa, my mistake as I’d thought this was the book I was looking for.
And I cannot find this book, I think it has in the title the word ‘visa’. Perhaps one of the readers knows its title, it has started to ‘obsesses’ me.
I remember reading from book how Nazis allowed Jews to leave Germany as long as other countries accepted them (i.e. they were granted a visa). And it was not easy and it depended on the consul (American consul that’s it) as the one in Vienna was granting visa more easily than the one in Bern.
Also, China/Shanghai was the only country to allow in foreigners without a visa (in fact they would get it at the border) but the tickets for ships departing from Germany to China had been sold out for years in advance. This part of the book was heart breaking
I complain now when a flight or hotel is sold out but in Nazi Germany this was a matter of life and death.
And in the same note there is a book “Voyage of the Damned” about a true event in 1939
“The MS St. Louis was a German ocean liner most notable for a single voyage in 1939, in which her captain, Gustav Schröder, tried to find homes for 937 German Jewish refugees after they were denied entry to Cuba, the United States and Canada, until finally accepted to various countries of Europe. Historians have estimated that, after their return to Europe, approximately a quarter of the ship’s passengers died in concentration camps.”
Here is the one of the reviews of the book “The Passport: The History of Man’s Most Travelled Document” from Amazon:
“Every now and then an expert in a field will produce about it a guide for laymen, a book to introduce aspects of his life’s work to others. One might not expect much from Martin Lloyd, who spent 23 years in Her Majesty’s Immigration Service, especially since as author he has confined himself to one little part of his job. In _The Passport: The History of Man’s Most Travelled Document_ (Sutton), however, Lloyd has made uniquely interesting a document that most travelers just take for granted. From the paper it is printed on to its cover, and from cuneiform to optical scanner recognition, the passport is all here. This is just the book to give to someone racking up international frequent flier miles.
It is surprising how unsubstantial a passport is in legal terms, and how much it has changed in the centuries. International law, amazingly, has nothing to say about the rights of those with or without passports. Passports themselves were originally a sort of letter of introduction, but then monarchs became established and realized that it was useful to have some sort of control of who was leaving or entering one’s realm. Even this was not given much legal weight. A more-or-less organized passport system has been in place for three centuries, but before the First World War, one could travel to most of the world without one; a passport was “in most cases a facility or a politeness, not a requirement.” Internationalizing passports has presented problems, many of which have no good solution. It was difficult, once passport booklets had become the standard and once typewriters were universal, to develop a way to type into the booklet without breaking the spine. Worse, it was often hard to tell what was the front of a passport; Lloyd may be writing from his own experience when he explains that puzzled passport control officers would try to remember whether a certain nation’s passports opened at the front, the back, were read sideways, and if so, which way sideways. International Civil Aviation Organization organizes passports, and has decreed, for the sake of civil rights, that passports not have a magnetic strip; that would make using them easier, but it might also encode information about the bearer.
Lloyd has included a host of interesting anecdotes about passports through history. William Joyce, for instance, was famous as Lord Haw Haw, the broadcaster of Nazi propaganda. He was obviously a traitor, but he was born an American and had become German, and had never been British. He was captured by the British, and accused of treason, but it is not logical that Britons could try a non-Briton for such a thing. Joyce happened, however, to have gotten illegally a British passport, and this was enough eventually to hang him. In 1953, an American named Davis declared himself a citizen of the world, and made his own passports under the auspices of the World Service Authority, a “fictional organization”; the document was mistakenly endorsed as real by some countries. Napoleon III, himself nearly a victim of an assassination plot involving false passports, said that passports are “… an obstacle to the peaceable citizen, but are utterly powerless against those who wish to deceive the vigilance of authority.” Today’s travelers are probably more inconvenienced by searches and interrogations, but Lloyd’s original book, full of surprising facts, gives the full story of the original and everlasting ticket to overseas, one that governments have found useful, travelers a nuisance, and international law a nonentity.”