Stamps Used by Sara Spira

By Jessica Geise

Hitler established the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda in 1933 with an intent to ensure the Nazi message would be communicated through various forms including, but not limited to, art, theater, films, radio, and the press.5 During the Third Reich, Nazi propaganda took control of the stamp design and policy in order to further their own wartime ideals.[1] Once Germany invaded Poland, the Nazis carved out a territory in the center of Poland and named it the General Government, or Generalgouvernement. German occupation stamps were issued for the various European countries that were occupied by Germany’s military forces between 1914 and 1918, but also from 1938 to 1945. The first stamps for the General Government of Poland were issued on December 1st, 1939.[2] Through this annotation, I will highlight the usage of stamps as propaganda as well as the details found on Sara Spira’s postcards to help one further understand just how useful these small, yet significant forms of postage currencies were for the Nazi regime.

In 1940, a class of stamps released pictured various forms of architecture and buildings. The stamp in particular found on Sara Spira’s postcard from February 7th, 1941, depicts the statue of Copernicus in University Court at Jagiellonian University in Krakau, Poland.[3]  The university, founded in 1364, is the oldest university in Poland, and also from which 184 professors were arrested and deported to concentration camps during the Nazi invasion of 1939.[4] This stamp is from the collection of stamps called “Sights and Views,” published in August of 1940, and designed by Professor Erwin Puchinger, a man born in Austria during 1876.[5] Puchinger was also a graphic and poster artist, a painter, and an industrial designer.[6] His designs were popularly used for war bonds and postage stamps and he was invited to present much of his work at the Great German Art Exhibitions between 1938 and 1943 in Munchen.[7] Hitler was fond of Punchinger’s work, personally acquiring three of the artist’s paintings for himself.[8]

The “Sights and Views” collection featured nine stamps picturing images of Krakau, and two others stamps with buildings from the town of Lublin.[9] In the upper left-hand corner of the stamp the Nazi War Eagle is printed. Originally developed by the Nazis in the 1920s, the symbol, called the Reichsadler, pictures an eagle combined with the Nazi swastika and eventually was named the national emblem.[10] Over top of the stamp is printed with “Deutsche Post/ Osten,” which translates to “German ,” for Poland was occupied by Germany. The price of the stamps was typically always labelled on the stamp, in either zlotys or . On Sara Spira’s postcard dated from Sept. 7th, 1941, she uses another stamp from Puchinger’s collection. The depiction in this stamp is of St. Brigit’s Church, which is found in Lublin.[11] Little information is known about this church’s significance.

In Sara Spira’s postcard dated from May 7th, 1940, she uses a stamp from a collection designed by the Polish artist Stanislaw Ostoja-Chrostowski.[12] The artist was famous for his works, having won a bronze medal in the art competitions at the Olympic Games of 1936.[13] He specialized in woodcuts and graphic artistry during the interwar period and was also Head of his division in the Department of Information and Intelligence Headquarters of the Army, The stamp’s background is largely filled with the left-hand side profile of a man, but due to the dark ink atop, it is difficult to distinguish who the man is. The war eagle is printed largely on pieces from Chrostowski’s collection, which have various backgrounds corresponding to the different values of each stamp. The General Gouvernment is printed on the bottom of the stamp as are the majority of stamps sent from German-occupied Poland.

Frederick Lauritzen is a prominent collector and historian of stamps from the Third Reich. Throughout Hitler’s reign, there were 334 different subjects used as material for postage stamps. The stamps printed commemorated the high artistic standards of the era and also provided a glimpse of German life under Nazi regime, underlying with Nazi propaganda. In November of 1938, the Winterhilfswerk series of stamps depicted nine views of Austria, alluding to the Anschluss from earlier that year in March. Some of the most valuable stamps issued during the pre-war times were dedicated to Richard Wagner, a composer having a great deal of influence on the propaganda for the Nazi party. Although Hitler often boasted his domineering personality, in 1940, a stamp was printed to celebrate his birthday in which he was patting a little girl’s cheek. This kind, nurturing persona was emphasized heavily by his propagandists. During the Reich’s largest expansion throughout 1941-1942, the twelve stamps issued in Germany all depicted the Fuhrer in profile, exemplifying the nationalistic commitment to the leader. The art of propaganda during the era of the German Reich can be appreciated for the excellent design and conception of artistic impulses that survived the most terrible regime of persecution and oppression. Nazi World War II stamps are a perfect example of this.[14]

[1] “Postage Stamp, 30 Zloty, Featuring St. Brigit’s Church, Lublin, Issued in German Occupied Poland.” – USHMM Collections Search. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.

[2]  “German Occupation Stamps.” Stamp-Collecting World. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2016.

[3] “German Occupation Stamps.”

[4] “Jagiellonian University.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.

[5] “German Occupation Stamps.”

[6] “Erwin Puchinger Bio, Stats, and Results.” Olympics at N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2016.

[7] “Erwin Puchinger Bio, Stats, and Resutls”

[8] “Erwin Puchinger Bio, Stats, and Results”

[9] “Stamp Art.”: Erwin Puchinger. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.

[10] Reichsadler.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.

[11] “General Government.” Stamp-World. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.

[12] “General Government.”

[13] “Stanislaw Ostoja-Chrostowski Bio, Stats, and Results.” Olympics at N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.

[14] Frederick Lauritzen (1988). Propaganda Art in the Postage Stamps of the Third Reich. The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, 10, 62-79.


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