LITHUANIA DURING WORLD WAR I


POSTGEBIET OB. OST. : POSTOFFICES

In important cities a 'Militärgouvernement' were established, Mitau, Grodno, Kowno (Kaunas) en Wilno (Vilnius). The coordination and central leadership of the Etappenverwaltungen came on 3-11-1915 under the staff of Oberbefehlshabers Ost in a 'Zentral-verwaltung', under which came the Verwaltungschefs. This 'Verwaltungsgebiet des Oberbefehlshabers Ost' is the 'Postgebiet Ob.Ost' for the philatelists. The areas near the frontline, the Etappengebiet of the front-troops, fell outside this area.

The map here is the cover of the book:
Das Land Ober Ost : Deutsche Arbeit in den Verwaltungsgebieten Kurland, Litauen und Bialystok-Grodno / herausgegebem im Auftrage des Oberbefehlshabers Ost , bearbeitet von der Presseabteilung Ober Ost. - [Kowno] : Presseabteilung Ober Ost : Stuttgart und Berlin, Im buchhandel bei der Deutschen Verlags-anstalt, 1917.
The book you can download on internet complete as pdf-file via the Podlaska Digital Library.
In the subtitle and on the map are indicated the three administrative districts: Kurland, Litauen and Bialystok-Grodno. About Lithuania as district (p.90):
"2. Militärverwaltung Litauen, mit den Sitz in Wilna. Dieser Bezirk besteht nunmehr aus dem gesamten in deutscher Hand befindlichen litauischen Sprachgebiet, so daß fast das ganze ethnographische Litauen einheitlich verwaltet wird.' So whole 'ethnographic' Lithuania was united in one district, according this book: the Russian Government Kowno, except the eastern parts od the district Kowno-Alexandrowst, further het Gouvernement Suwalki and of the Gouvernment Wilna the western district Wilna, Troki and a part of Svenjany.

A part of the book (from p. 77) is 'Das Heer als Verwalter', the army as an administrator. One of the sections was the 'Postabteilung (Abteilung X)', the post-section: "7. Die Postabteilung (Abteilung X), die die Einrichtungen für den Postverkehr de Zivilbevölkerung schafft und überwacht."(p. 88), The Postal Department/Section (Department/Section X) which creates and monitors the facilities for postal traffic of civilians.
The chapter 'Post und Telegraph' (p.160-) gives more details. November 1915 -with the participation of the 'Reichspostamt'- the 'Deutsche Post- und Telegraphenverwaltung im Postgebiet des Oberbefehlshabers Ost", is formed, then already shotened as P. T. V. Ob. Ost, with headquarters in Kowno (Kaunas).
As a special department P.T.V. Ob. Ost is affiliated with the staff of the Oberbefehlshabers Ost. End of January 1917 the department is transferred to Bialystok.

In the beginning of the German occupation every post-mailing was forbidden for the civilian population. In an decree of the Governor of Vilnius, von Wegner:
" Nr. 19 Bekanntmachung
Jede Beförderung von Briefen, Karten, Schriftstücken aller Art, Drucksachen und Zeitungen von Ort zu Ort ist verboten. Zuwiderhandlungen werden mit Geldstrafe bis 5000 Mark und Gefängnis bis zu einem Jahre, wahlweise oder nebeneinander, in Wiederholungsfalle mit der doppelten Strafe bedroht. Wilna, den 12. Oktober 1915
Der Gouverneur
gez. Wegner
Generalleutnant"
"Nr. 19 Decree
Every sending of letters, cards, all kind of writings, printed matter and newspapers from place to place is forbidden. Offences were punished with a money-punshment to 5000 Mark and gail to one year, option or both, in case of repeat with the double punishment.
Vilnius..."
Yet on initiative of the Oberbefehlshaber Ost was set up: "Deutsche Post- und Telegraphenverwaltung im Postgebiete des Oberbefehlshabers Ost", P.T.V. Ob.Ost for short.
In a decree of 14-1-1916 the Oberbefehlshaber Ost established the 'Kaiserliche deutsche P.T.V. Ob.Ost' in the 'Etappengebiet' of the Oberbefehlshabers Ost.
During the German occupation the post in the Lithuanian area came under the "Postgebiet Ober-Ost", the postal service of the Oberbefehlshaber Ost (supreme commander East). In the postmarks the Polish "Wilno" is not used longer for Vilnius, but the German name "Wilna".
On 15 January German post offices were opened, wich had to see to the private postal traffic of the citizens with the postal area of "Ober-Ost", Generalgouvernement Warsaw, and with Germany.
Also in Vilnius a post office were opened for this at the Grosze Strasse 12, where citizens could bring and get mail. There was no postal delivery, but besides the German Post Office there was local mail in Vilnius, which delivered post. This delivery brought along with one additional costs and one had a special postmark "GEBÜHR 10 PF".

From 24 August the greatest part of 'Russian Poland' did not fall under the Oberbefehlshaber Ost and became the Generalgouvernement Warschau. For the : "Deutsche Post- und Telegraphenverwaltung im Postgebiete des Oberbefehlshabers Ost" new overprintings were made on German postage stamps. The overprinting for 'Postgebiet Ob. Ost' had the same type as the stamps for 'Russian-Polen'.
As you se here stamps of the 'Germania'-design (1905-1917) -12 different postage stamps- are overprinted with 'Postgebiet Ob. Ost', in black ink. The stamps are used from January 1916 to December 1918.
Original print size of this image: 15,680 x 10,244 cm (is something more as the postal item).
This picture and all pictures below on this page, if not mentioned otherwise: scanned about 300 dpi. Then set right and cut out - noted the actual print size-, resized 25 % of this image and saved as jpg.
Registered letter with German postmark WILNA 23-5 1916 (Vilnius) to Breslau. With a German registering-label. The violet postmark "M.P.k." is of the censorship in Königsberg. In a wide border zone of Germany offices were established for the control of the mail., whre all mail had to be controled. more inside the country there was no checking of interior postal traffic. A "Postüberwachungsstelle", a mail control-office, were set up also in Königsberg, where the supreme command of the First Army Corps had its seat. "M.P.k." is short for "Militärische Postkontrolle" (military postcontrol). The M and P are 5 mm high, the k is 3 mm. The postmarks were used from 1916 to 1918, especially for mail from and to the Baltic area and the Postal area Ober-Ost. General instruction was, that in foreign countries all letters had to be send open. If letters arrived sealed by the postcontrol, they were send back to the sender. Inland post was opened only by suspection, by example in consequence of a suspected adress. Illegible or difficult legible writings were not allowed. In case of impermissible statements attachment or returning followed. To 26 December 1918 Ob. Ost stayed in Vilnius.

From many cities there are papers with these stamps, but mostly only adressed to 'Dahmann', 'Noske' or other philatelic producers.
Many cities in the Baltic have also an old German name. These names are now again used in postmarks of this period. The Russian name is very often only a transcription of the German name.
In the article of Andrew Kapochunas- "Ob. Ost" civilian post offices and their cancellations: 1916-1918" : making sense of a misunderstood philatelic "stepchild" (see Literature here below), is given a table of the Ob.Ost Post Offices in the Postgebiet Ob. Ost. He gives the dates of opening and closing (and discussions/conflicts about this).


The sender of this letter above is someone of the 'Militär-Eisenbahndirektion 5' in Wilno, Vilnius. The construction and recovery - and at retreat the destruction - of the railways in the war zone was entrusted to the 'Eisenbahntruppen' (Railway Troops). The 'Chef des Feldeisenbahnwesens' (chief of the field railways) decided that 'Militär-Eisenbahndirektionen' (MED, Military Raiway Directories) and 'Linienkommandanturen' had to be organized in the conquered areas. Thus MED 5, established for Lithuania, was established in Vilnius (from Oct. 10,1915 onwards, previously established in Kaunas).
These various Militär-Eisenbahndirektionen also had, of course, letter cancels of their own for the field post.




Original print size of this image: 14,131 x 7,832 cm
(is something more as the postal item).

Registered letter, with German registering-postmark and the stamp "EINSCHREIBEN" (to register), to Berlin. The censorship-postmark "M.P.k." is black. This postmark occured in violet, red, and black.
The Ob. Ost Post Ofice Wilna (Vilnius) is opened January 1, 1916, and closed December 26, 1918. In this period three Types cancellation were used:
Type I: at the top the placename and at the bottom three stars
Type II: when a place has more postmarks, at the top the placename an at the bottom two stars with a identifying character between
Type III: at the top the placename and at the bottom a n addition, for example (Kurland)
In Vilnius Type I and two times Type II (a and b) were used. The letter up here is cancelled with Type II, identifying character 'a', of the Main Post Office of Vilnius. Further below we see a card with Type I of Vilnius. The cancellations were used also as arrival stamp.



Postal stationery of Ob. Ost with postmark of the censorship in Königsberg:
Geprüft und freigegeben
Überwachunsstelle Königsberg i. Pr.
= Checked and Released
Censor's Office Königsberg i. Pr. (in Prussia)

Original print size of this image: 14,182 x 9,153 cm (is something more as the postal item).


This postal stationary card with value indication 7½ Pfennig: in Michel P3.


Censorship in Vilnius
On 6 january 1916 a censorship-office has been set up in Vilnius.
In the beginning the post is censored by the Government, and in this perios is used a 3-line postmark, something as above:
Geprüft und freigegeben
Kaiserliches Gouvernement, A..
Wilna, den .......

Here below a cover with censorship mark: a "W" (Wilna = Vilnius) in a circle (diameter 13 mm). This type is used between June 1916 and november 1917.
A second type, with a more thick "W" and diameter 15 mm is used from january to july 1918. This last type seems to me to see on the cover here below.




Original print size of this image: 18,855 x 12,404 cm (is something more as the postal item).



The censorship-office of Vilnius was used for censoring the post from Lithuania to occupied Russia.

The post between Ob.Ost and Germary was censored in the Überwachunsstelle Königsberg i. Pr., Censor's Office Königsberg i. Pr. (in Prussia). The postmark of this office we have seen on the card, postal stationery, above.


Above the postmark has clearly three stars below. There two other types: with a as serial letter below -as here left- and with b as serial letter.


The postmark of the first letter (above), resized 50 %, with serial letter a.





Card with the Ob.Ost-postmark of Poniewiez, in Lithuanian Panevežys. This post office is also opened January 15, 1916. It is closed also on December 26, 1918.


Original print size of this image: 14,283 x 9,305 cm (is something more as the postal item).

There is used a fieldpostcard, but the card is considered as private post.



POSTGEBIET OB. OST. : THE POSTAGE STAMPS

On the postage stamps (Mi. 1-12) you can recognize some known post offices in the postmarks, Wilna (Vilnius), Kowno (Kaunas), Libau (the Latvian Liepāja), Grodno (ГРОДНА [Grodna] in present Belarus).



Postage stamps for the 'Postgebiet Ob. Ost', Michel 1-12, are isued January 15 1916/ 1918. The stamps are overprints on postage stamps of German Empire.
On January 15, 1916, are issued the overprint on 3 (rate for inland and local printed matter), 10 (rate inland letter), 20 (rate heavier inland letter), and 40 Pfennig and 1 Mark (Mi. 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11 and 12)

From August 1, 1916 upto Oktober 1, 1918: new rates. Rate for local letter, inland postcard and local postcard is then 7½ Pfennig, inland letter becomes 15 Pfennig On August 1, 1916, are issued the overprints on 2½ and 7½ Pfennig (Mi. 1 and 4).

In 1917-1918 is issued a second supplementary issue on 15 and 25 Pfennig (Mi. 7 and 9).
Germany specialists differentiate much more: flat-plate and cylinder printing, three different colours of the overprint, job order numbers ("HAN") on the sheet edging of the stamps (only by flat-plate printing). Details in the Handbook of Harry v. Hofmann about Latvia 1915-1920.



POSTGEBIET OB. OST. : POSTAL RATES

At the beginning of the German occupation only fieldpost was permitted and this mail is free. The rates with the start of Postgebiet Ob. Ost, January 15, 1916:
local letter and local postcard 5 Pfennig, registered local letter or postcard 25 Pfennig, local printed matter 3 Pfennig
inland letter 10 Pfennig, registered inland letter 30 Pfennig
inland postcard 5 Pfennig, registered inland postcard 25 Pfennig, inland printed matter matter 3 Pfennig
international mail was not allowed
Only in the bigger town there was a delivery service, but with delivery fee (Vilnius 10 Pfennig)

100 Pfennig = 1 Mark. One Russian rouble is 2 Marks. In April 1916 are issued by the Germans the 'Ostrubel' and in 1918 'Ostmarks'. 1 Mark = 1 Ostmark = 0,50 Ostrubels.
From August 1, 1916, upto October 1, 1918, new rates (and so new postage stamps, new postal statioary card):
local letter and local postcard 7½ Pfennig, registered local letter or postcard 27½ Pfennig, local printed matter 3 Pfennig
inland letter 15 Pfennig, registered inland letter 35 Pfennig
inland postcard 7½ Pfennig, registered inland postcard 27½ Pfennig, inland printed matter matter 3 Pfennig
Also new rates for international mail, now allowed, to some neutral countries the German foreign rate (20 Pfennig for a letter) The increase of the postal rates is a war tax, called the Reichsabgabe (for the the state treasury).



POSTGEBIET OB. OST : AMTLICHE HANDELSSTELLEN DEUTSCHER HANDELSKAMMERN

In the administrative territory of the Oberbefehlshaber Ost were 'Amtliche Handelsstellen deutscher Handelskammern', Offices of the German Chambers of Commerce. Also in present Lithuania.

Here a cover of the Amtliche Handelsstelle deutscher Handelskammern Kowno. In Kowno, present Kaunas in Lithuania was the Head Office of the chambers of commerce on the administrative area Ob. Ost. On January 28, 1917, the Head Office is moved to Bialystok, and it returned on October 1, 1917. Late in November 1916 there were 5 other Offices: Libau (Liepāja in present Latvia), Wilna (Vilnius), Bialystok (Białystok in present Poland), Grodno (ГРОДНА [Grodna] in present Belarus) and Mitau (Jelgava in present Latvia).



The logo, resized 50 %.

The mail of these offices was free of censorship and carried by the fastest route. For these privileges the covers must have an official cachet, as on this cover. The cover has also imprinted Kowno, ..
The address of the office in Kowno was Kaiserstr. 1.


Cover from the Amtliche Handelsstelle deutscher Handelskammern Wilno (Vilnius). This cover has also imprinted Wilno, ..

The cover is sent to the Amtliche Handelsstelle deutscher Handelskammern Mitau, Jelgava in present Latvia.

The address in Vilnius was Georgstraße 29, the address of the ofice in Mitau was Nikolaistraße 4.

Details about the privileges of the offices is published in the 'Verordnungsblatt' of Ob. Ost on Nivemer 7, 1916:
mailto and from the offices are 'von jeder Zensur befreit' , free of all censorship, 'auf dem schnellsten Wege', by the fastest route, ....
Hauptquatier Ost, den 24.9.1916
Von seiten des Oberbefehlshaber Ost
Der Chef des Genralstabes
Hoffmann.


On the backside a stamp of the Amtliche Handelsstelle deutscher Handelskammern.

Stamp, resized 50 %.

The latest known date of a cover from an Amtliche Handelsstelle is a cover from Vilnius November 10, 1918.

Details in the article of Röttger about these offices.



POSTGEBIET OB. OST : REGULATIONS

In 1917 a handbook is issued for the mail traffic, with many details about course of things. This book, written by Ober-Postsekretär E. Rossig, of of course according the front page 'zugelassen', permitted, by the 'Buchprüfungsamt Ob. Ost', book-censor-office O. Ost.
In the first section the purpose is indicated: "Die Postämter sind dazu bestimmt, den privaten Postverkehr der Einwohner des Postgebiets des Oberbefehlshaber Ost mit..." The postoffices are destined, the private mail traffic of the inhabitants of the Postal Area of the Supreme Commander East with....... The Poastal area itself, Germany, General-Government Warsaw and Austria-Hongary.
The postage stamps of Ob. Ost. had to be used: "Zur Freimachung der Sendungen sind Wertzeichen mit den Aufdruck "Postgebiet Ob.Ost" zu verwenden."
There were allsorts of rules for the letters (§6). The letters had delivered up open "offen eingeliefert", written in German, and "Mitteilungen über militärische Angelegenheiten sind verboten", notices aboutmilitary matters were forbidden. Also "Gefütterte Briefumschläge" were forbidden.
. Letters must also be note too long (2 Seiten Quartformat, 2 Pages quarto format maximum), probably because it otherwise too much work was for the censor.