Saturday, May 31, 2008

Scarce, Illegal and Legal Uses of the 1-Rpf. Hindenburg in Luxembourg During the World War II Occupation

1. Introduction

Some of the most interesting Luxembourg covers are those from the World War II German occupation of the Grand Duchy. For the knowledgeable philatelist, they present abundant opportunities to find philatelic treasures ─ often at very reasonable prices ─ amidst dealers’ stocks at show bourses, on eBay or Delcampe, and in European auctions. Some of these treasures are showcased in this article.

Luxembourg was occupied on May 10, 1940. The Grand Duchy’s stamps remained valid until October 1, 1940.[1] They were replaced on that date by 16 denominations of Germany’s Hindenburg M√©dallion series overprinted ‘Luxemburg,’ with face values ranging from 3 Rpf. to 100 Rpf. Curiously, the lowest denomination of the Hindenburg series ─ the 1 Rpf. Hindenburg ─ was never overprinted. However, in response to local demands, an unknown quantity of the un-overprinted 1 Rpf. was made available to pay the 1-Rpf. newspaper wrapper (or zeitungssachen) rate for locally delivered newspapers. This rate remained in effect only from October 1 to the end of 1940, just 92 days.[2] According to M. C. Gilhousen writing in the German Postal Specialist, the 1 Rpf. Hindenburg:

was occasionally used for other purposes but was assessed postage due at the 150 percent rate when detected. In many cases, postage due charges were not assessed. Keep your eyes open for the 1 Pf used in Luxembourg between November 30, 1940 and April 1, 1941. They are very rare.[3]

Gilhousen’s reference to November 30, 1940, suggests that the 1-Rpf. Hindenburg might not have been available in Luxembourg until that date, in which case the period of sole use on newspaper wrappers would have been only 31 days. His reference to April 1, 1941, is to the date on which use of all German stamps was permitted in Luxembourg.

  1. Scarce, Illegal and Legal Uses
Illus. 1 - Use of the 1-Rpf. Hindenberg on a newspaper wrapper, December 31, 1940

2(a) ─ Scarce newspaper wrapper use: While the covers Gilhousen refers to indeed are scarce, the wrapper shown in Illus. 1 is even scarcer. It shows the 1-Rpf. Hindenberg properly used as sole franking on a newspaper wrapper endorsed “Zeitungsdrucksache” and postmarked Luxemburg [a], December 31, 1940, the last day of the 1 Rpf. zeitungssachen rate. The wrapper was used to send an issue of the Luxemburger Volksblatt newspaper to a local subscriber. Thus far, I believe the only other reported example of this is a similar wrapper in Dieter Basien's collection, which is illustrated at p. 214 of the Basien-Hoffkamp rate book. But other examples likely remain to be discovered. I would welcome scans of any examples the readers might have secreted away in their collections.

Illus. 2 ─ Illegal Use of a pair of the 1-Rpf. Hindenburg on a 12-Rpf., 20-g letter, posted February 6, 1941

2(b) ─ Illegal uses (with and without penalty): As Gilhousen points out, before April 1, 1941, the 1-Rpf. Hindenburg could only be used to pay the 1-Rpf. franking required for locally mailed newspapers. However, occasionally the 1-Rpf. Hindenburg was used, albeit illegally, in combination with other stamps where one or two Reichpfennings were needed to exactly make up a rate as the lowest denomination Hindenburg overprint was the 3 Rpf.

Illus. 2 shows an illegal use of a pair of the 1 Rpf. making up the 20-g, 12-Rpf. letter rate in combination with a pair of the 3+2 Rpf. overprinted Winter Welfare semi-postal and a 4-Rpf. Charlotte surcharge on a letter posted February 6, 1941, to Duisburg, Germany. However, no penalty was assessed despite the illegal use. Illus. 3 shows a similar un-penalized illegal use on an 82-Rpf. registered, special delivery cover.

Illus. 3 - Illegal Use of the 1-Rpf . Hindenburg on
an 82- Rpf. Registered, Special Delivery Letter

In contrast, the 82-Rpf. registered, special delivery cover shown in Illus. 4, which was posted on March 3, 1941, was properly penalized 3-Rpf. (150%) for the illegal use of a pair of the 1-Rpf. Hindenburg [blue crayon 'T 0.03' with the 1-Rpf. Hindenburg pair marked off and not cancelled.]

Illus. 4 - Illegal Use of the 1-Rpf . Hindenburg on an 82- Rpf.
Registered, Special Delivery Letter with 150% Penalty Assessed

2(c) ─ Legal uses: From April 1 to December 31, 1941, all then-valid German stamps could be used in Luxembourg, and as of January 1, 1942, use of such German stamps was required. Illus. 5 and 6 show legal uses of the 1-Rpf. Hindenburg after March 31, 1941.

Illus. 5 - Legal Use of the 1-Rpf. Hindenburg on October 10, 1941, to uprate a 5-Rpf. local-rate postal card to the 6-Rpf. domestic postal card rate, sent from Luxemburg to Heffingen.

Illus. 6 - Legal Use of the 1-Rpf. Hindenburgon December 12, 1941, on a 12-Rpf., 20-g letter from Luxemburg to Markkleeberg, Germany

3. Explaining the Uses

Illegal use of the 1 Rpf. Hindenburg can be explained in several different ways. Some might have used the low denomination stamp out of sheer frugality or for convenience; others may simply have been ignorant of the rather strange prohibition against general use of the 1 Rpf. stamp in Luxembourg before April 1, 1941. And, of course, still others may have had philatelic design in mind, as this is a period during which philatelic contrivances abound.

Keep the dates shown in Table 1 in mind when you rummage through dealers’ dollar boxes or scrutinize the offerings in auctions and on the Internet. And don’t forget to share your findings with me!

Table 1 ─ Philatelically Significant Dates During WWII

Validity Period

Uses Allowed

Oct 1 1940

Jan 1 1942

Hindenburg overprints & stationery

Dec 5 1940

Apr 1 1941

Surcharged Luxembourg stamps

Jan 12 1941

Jun 30 1941

Overprinted German Welfare semi-postals

Apr 1 1941

Jan 1 1942

All then-valid German stamps & the

Alsace and Lorraine overprints

Jan 1 1942

Sep 10 1944

German stamps required; others invalidated

4. Conclusion

Many philatelic treasures from the World War II occupation remain to be discovered. Non-philatelic uses of the higher denomination overprinted Hindenburgs tend to be found mostly on commercial international airmail covers to North and South America. But sole use of the lowly 1-Rpf. un-overprinted Hindenburg can be found only on newspaper wrappers used between October 1 (or possibly November 30) and December 31, 1940. This use is undoubtedly the scarcst of all the Hindenburg uses in Luxembourg during the World War II occupation. Happy hunting!

[1] Mixed Luxembourg and Hindenburg frankings were allowed (some say "tolerated") on October 1 and October 2.

[2] See Basien & Hoffkamp, tarife der briefpost in luxemburg 1852-2002, p. 62.

[3] “The Frugal Philatelist,” pp. 187-194 (May 1995). See also Marcel Starr, das postwesen in luxembourg w√§hrend der deutscher Besetzung im 2. Weltkrieg 10.5.1940-10.9.1944 (Luxembourg 1983).