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If you check out a stamp catalogue, you notice a gap between Austria’s December 1937 “Rose and Zodiac Signs” issue (picture to the right) and the overprinted stamp from 1945 marking the country’s liberation from the Nazis. Differently from other occupied territories, one cannot find locally issues stamps from these 8 years.
The occupation of Poland, for instance, had the Generalgouvernement (General Government) issues from 1939. Böhmen und Mähren (Bohemia and Moravia) issues marked the invasion of Chechoslovakia the same way overprinted German “Ostland” were issued in the eastern territories of Belarus, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, “Ukraine” and “Luxembourg” overprints also used on German Reich stamps on those countries. Other areas received similar treatment. Austria, however, was a special case.
WWII issues from Bohemia and Moravia, Poland and the Eastern Front
German troops entered Austria on the 12th of March of 1938 and in Vienna two days later. Rather than an invasion, it was rather considered an annexation (in German called Anschluss), given the cultural similarities and fulfilling Hitler’s dream of ‘a greater Germany’. The nature of junction perhaps explains why that country was treated differently, and the reason Austrians stamps actually ceased to exist.
For some moths, mixed postage (Austrian and German stamps) were accepted, but that gradually changed: from the 22nd of June all the German stamps were valid throughout Austrian territory, and by October of the same year only Reich stamps were valid throughout the territory. The Shilling also was slowly exchanged for the Reichsmark (1.5 Shilling for 1 Reichsmark). The Anschluss was, as expected, celebrated in Germany with a stamp issue on the 8th of April of 1938 picturing two men with the Nazi and Austrian flags and reading “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer” (one people, one empire, one leader’).
It is therefore rather difficult to tell German and Austrian issued stamps apart from that period, as the collector can only look for clues in the cancels - easier to do with covers than single stamps, especially from the earlier incorporation period: when Austrian stamps were used together with a German. Cancels written “Wien”, “Linz”, and “Graz” are still nonetheless recognizable on German stamps from 1938-1945 (such as shown in the stamps to the right).
The occupation ended in 1945, when the Nazis fell and Austria was freed by the Allies and divided into four parts. The eastern part occupied by the soviets first used German Empire stamps overprinted “Österreich” – later adding thick black stripes around the inscription to cover Hitler’s face and the “Deutsches Reich” inscription. The denomination used was still in Pfenigs and Marks. A month later, in July, the soviets issued a new set of stamps picturing the country’s coat of arms for use in Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland. Meanwhile, the western part under the Allied Military Government (A.M.G.) of the USA, England, and France, issued jointly a stamp series featuring the postal horn in Groschen and Shilling.
From left to right: 1945 Soviet issues from May and July (eastern territory), and Western Austria's AMG issue from June
It wasn’t until the end of 1945 that the republic was re-established and general stamp issues were put up for sale. These picture Austrian landmarks, mountains, lakes from the country’s different regions (picture to the left). Series followed portraying famous Austrians, with UN symbols, the coat of arms and other rather neutral themes in the following years of recovery - at least in definitive and commemorative issues.
Austrians were reminded of horrors suffered in the Nazi occupation period (not that a country in re-construction was able to forget so soon, but still) with the semi-postals issued in September 1946 to fund the Anti-Fascist Exhibition entitled “Never forget!” (Niemals Vergessen!). These propaganda issues showed strong images of a country cleaning after the regime. The series contain 8 stamps issued and two others forbidden by the Allies for being too graphic. One of the forbidden stamps pictured a skull taking off a Hitler mask, while the other portrayed an SS blitz over Austrian territory. These can still be found for sale in mind condition, featuring higher prices. The exhibition was rather popular and sought to inform about the regime’s perpetrated crimes.
Anti-fascist propaganda "Never Forget" from 1946
The Austrians regained sovereignty and control of its postal system a decade after the war ended and in October 1955 saw the last Allied troops leave its territory. This was, of course, celebrated by a stamp issued that year featuring the coat of arms and the inscription “Staatsvertrag 1955” (the Austrian State Treaty of 1955), where the country agreed to keep a neutrality policy in an attempt to hinder possible future wars in the region.
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