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Help - Possible Pow Cover From WWII

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Valued Member

United States
66 Posts
Posted 05/09/2021   1:43 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this topic Add MusicalStamps to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
I am a little stuck on this cover and hoping some of you might be able to help me understand it.

Obviously, this is a bit of an unusual piece. It is a pre-used envelope, that has a piece of paper covering the original use. The "new" address is to the Red Cross in Geneva and written in Italian. However, there is no person to whom it is addressed. There is also no postage, is that odd?

It was sold to me as coming from a POW camp, but the military cancellation is for Radelfingen b Aarberg, which is in Switzerland.

I picked this up because the piece of paper that was used to cover the original envelope is the back of some kind of sheet music. You can just make out that there are musical staves, chords, and lyrics. Any thoughts about this piece?

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Posted 05/09/2021   2:23 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add NSK to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
There were many internment camps in Switzerland, mostly for allied military personnel that evaded the Germans. They already existed durung WWI.
Correspondence passed through the International Committee of the Red Cross in Switzerland.
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Edited by NSK - 05/09/2021 2:26 pm
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United States
66 Posts
Posted 05/09/2021   3:11 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add MusicalStamps to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Interesting. But without a name on it how did it get to a recipient? Was there a separate envelope inside? ALso, this is in Italian and they weren't part of the allies, so I am still not quite understanding.
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Posted 05/09/2021   3:28 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add NSK to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
At the bottom left, there is another stamp. It appears to be in French, or maybe Italian. That piece of paper looks like an internee card.
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Edited by NSK - 05/09/2021 3:29 pm
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United States
66 Posts
Posted 05/09/2021   4:11 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add MusicalStamps to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
The stamp in the lower left reads:

Militar Interniertenlagen
Radelfingen b. Aarberg

According to Google translate that does translate to "military internment camps" then the same place as the other stamp. So surely this is a pow camp in Switzerland - as you said.
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Posted 05/09/2021   4:15 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add NSK to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
No. below that. It is circulair. The "Military Interned Camp / Radelfingen bei Aarberg" is clear.

It is Lager, not Lagen. A Lager is a camp. The litteral translation is Military Interned Camp, i.e., a Militairy Internment Camp as you wrote.

On the darker paper.
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Edited by NSK - 05/09/2021 4:20 pm
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Posted 05/09/2021   5:55 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add mml1942 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
The International Red Cross in Geneva Switzerland served as a clearing house for correspondence between individuals in internment camps and those in occupied territories with others who were in enemy territory (for both sides).

There was a standard Red Cross Message form, Form No. 61, which was used for this purpose. These were readily available to internees and family, and when completed, were sent under cover to the International Red Cross, which opened the envelope, checked the name and address of the person to whom the message was to be sent, corrected it if necessary, then forwarded the message form to the addressee. The following is a typical example from printed in Switzerland, but used in Palestine, with the "61" at the top right corner. Not all forms had the "61" present.



A reply was written on the reverse, and the form was returned to the International Red Cross in Geneva to be returned back to the original writer.



Virtually every country in the world printed their own version of this form, and there are many slightly different forms printed by each of those counties. There were three different formats prepared by Germany, perhaps 20 by Great Britain. I am aware of no serious attempt to document all the different types of these Red Cross forms.

Because of the wartime conditions in Europe, the Red Cross maintained a massive database of names and addresses as people moved around. The sender may only have the addressee's original address, so the Red Cross was instrumental in seeing that the message was sent to the most recent known address.

The International Red Cross handled over 23 millions of these forms. Attached are two pages from a post-WW2 report prepared by the International Red Cross showing the number of forms received at Geneva from each country. The list is in chronological order based on the date that the country began using these forms.








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Posted 05/09/2021   7:22 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add hy-brasil to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
No postage is normal; the Red Cross did not charge for carrying this type of mail.

Exactly what are we looking at here? Is it a cover front, a whole envelope? Since there is no specific addressee, one might guess it contained a small bundle of the form letters like mml1942 shows to be sorted later and sent on to the individual destinations.
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Posted 05/09/2021   7:42 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add mml1942 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
These outer envelopes with Red Cross Message forms generally did not have an addressee other than the "International Red Cross".

I collect covers sent from the German and Italian sailors who were interned in camps in Mexico at Perote and Irapuato. The German sailors tended to include only their personal message in their letters, but I have examples of covers from the Italian internees which have outer docketing stating there are 10 or 20 message forms enclosed.

The French eventually collected postage on the returned message sheets, and you can find them folded with a postage stamp. The Red Cross had a practice of asking people from the Allied countries to include postage or an International Reply Coupon with the MEssage forms, but these were not mandatory. Occasionally you will see these envelopes with a red hand stamped "COUPON RESPONSE" which meant that an IRC was found with the message.
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Edited by mml1942 - 05/09/2021 9:05 pm
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Posted 05/09/2021   11:07 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add MusicalStamps to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
This is all amazingly helpful.

hy-brazil, this is an entire envelope. It is slit open across the top (and the right side is now also open). There is nothing printed on the back.

So, from all of this, my understanding is that this probably was sent from a pow camp to the international Red Cross headquarters in Geneva and would have held multiple forms/notes of the type shared from detainees. At the red cross the envelope would have been opened and the forms forwarded to the home countries? Hope I have interpreted this correctly. No specific name and no postage are the norm for this type of communication.

Pretty cool (from my perspective) that the envelope is reused and that a piece of music was incorporated into it.
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Posted 05/10/2021   12:11 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add John Becker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I would not expect to see postage on mail sent by POWs.

From the U.S. perspective, here is the section from the U.S. Postal Bulletin, Number 18230, dated July 1, 1941 (before Pearl Harbor!):




On the surface, this appears to be a universal "free postage to all POWs" policy of all belligerents, but I will happily stand corrected. MML's post certainly looks like a lot of countries subscribed to the Red Cross hub operation. I did not search any further Bulletins for other U.S. updates/revisions later in the war. This Bulletin issue has additional paragraphs on POW parcels which follow the above letter-mail revisions.

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Posted 05/10/2021   06:04 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add mml1942 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Musicalstamps:

I would be inclined to think your envelope carried civilian mail between people on opposing sides rather than POW mail. POW mail was distinctively marked, and always showed either the sender or address as a POW.

Because mail service was discontinued between the warring powers, the only way families could maintain contact with members on the other side was via the International Red Cross. I speculate that most of these mails via the IRC in Geneva was personal mail rather than from internment camps.

One can search eBay for "Red Cross" under stamps, and find many of these. They are particularly common between family members in England writing to other family on the Islands of Gurnsey and Jersey. The messages were limited to 25 words or less, and all are benign, as the contents were censored and anything suspect would result in the form not being sent.

John is correct that all POW related mail was sent free. That is an entirely different category of mail, and was usually distinguishable because it was addressed to or from POW camps. It is an even more complex process, and beyond my expertise.

Here is one of the letters from Mexico where the envelope was docketed to show it had included 22 of the Red Cross Message forms sent by Italian internees.



I recall reading somewhere, perhaps the 1947 Red Cross report on their WW II activities, that these envelopes. once the contents were removed, were then sold to stamp dealers, which is why there are a large quantity available even today.



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Edited by mml1942 - 05/10/2021 06:14 am
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France, Metropolitan
3096 Posts
Posted 05/10/2021   07:32 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add perf12 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
MusicalStamps; Why don't you post the reverse side also.
The music notes on the back are interesting...
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Posted 05/10/2021   10:08 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add MusicalStamps to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Now I am becoming more confused than when I started . . . I think the stamp on the lower left of the envelope makes it clear that this is from a pow camp:
Militar Interniertenlager (military internment camp)
Radelfingen b. Aarberg

The piece of paper where there are markings is glued to the envelope so I cannot show the music on the back of it.
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Posted 05/10/2021   10:36 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add mml1942 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
An internee is not the same thing as a POW.

A POW is a armed military person who is captured and held by the opposing side.

An internee is an individual not under arms who is being held by the civilian government of the opposing side. Or as noted above, could be a military person being held by a neutral government.
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Posted 05/11/2021   02:26 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add NSK to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
As @mml1942 points out, it is not POW mail, but military-internee mail.

It appears the music sheet is glued on a second item that also was either internee or POW mail. A little below the name of the camp, you see the top (or bottom) of another circular stamp that has the letters "d'Inte." That and the lines and print as well as typed letters that show on the darker piece of paper make me believe the music sheet is glued over another item that was used at an earlier stage. Likely a Swiss internee item.
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