Monday, August 30, 2021

Story of Ceska Trebova

I was preparing a page for my exhibit and trying to think of what to use and I cam across the stamp on the right. The stamp shows the coat of arms of a Czech town called Česká Třebová situated on the border of Bohemia and Moravia.

According to the information sent to me by their webmaster, the name of the town is based on the old Czech word triebiti meaning chop down because at that time the entire area was covered with forests which needed to be cleared before settling there. The town received the addition of Česká so as to distinguish itself from other areas named Třebová.

Enough of that, let us look at the coat of arms. During history Česká Třebová was a town of potters, weavers and peasants. A simple clerk took care of the town's official seal. Not sure why but he pledged his life for its safety and guarded it very carefully. Unfortunately for him and despite his best efforts, the seal disappeared. Both he and his wife searched everywhere for it, his life was at stake. But it was no where to be found.

The poor guy was arrested and put in jail. He was able to watch in despair  as the carpenters build the gallows where he would be hanged. They took this very seriously. His faithful wife continued the search but with little hope. She looked out the window and saw a rooster standing in the yard, clutching something under its claws. Running out she found that the bird had the seal in his claws and she managed to rescue her husband at the very last moment. To commemorate this event they changed the coat of arms to be a rooster with a human head.

Now we get to the human head which is what caught my eye in the first place. Throughout medieval Europe, there were many anti Jewish laws in place. Jews seemed to be the scapegoats for anything including the Black Death. Anything bad happened, blame the Jews. Today it is blame Israel, same thing but off topic.

So now the question was, how to identify who is Jewish so that people can decide whether they want to do business with them or not. The Nazis used a yellow badge in the form of a star of David. In ancient times it was a piece of clothing. In German-speaking Europe, as early as mid 13th century, there was a requirement for Jews to wear a Judenhut which was a cone-shaped hat, such as the one in the Česká Třebová coat of arms! On the left you can see similar hats. Check this for more information on the Jewish star.

The coat of arms of Judenburg in Austria also has the head of a Jew wearing the funny hat. Now the question is why were the Jews of this small town in the Czech area subjected to wear this hat. According to their museum this was not intended as a symbol of anti-Semitism. Jews were among the most educated sections of their society as they were one of the very few who could read and write. This was custom dress for a Jew. They claim that it was a sign of respect.

Maybe that is what they believed then, thoughts?

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Never forget

We Jews have had a rough time, massacres by Roman invaders, Muslim invaders, Crusaders and others. In Europe, we had massacres in most countries, during Crusader times, the Inquisition, the Black Death, Pogroms and the Holocaust. 

Now we have our own country and the words "Never Forget" and "Never Again" are an integral part of the Israeli and Jewish psyche. Here in Israel we have two remembrance days where there are sirens, the first on the anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the second a week later for the remembrance of our fallen soldiers. Simply put the first remembrance day is to remember the cost when Jews did not have a country of our own and the second to remind us of the cost of holding on to a country of our own.

But the horrors of Europe during the Nazi years was not only felt by Jews, but by everyone. Austria was one of the countries that was occupied by the Nazis. After the war and its liberation from Nazism, the Allies were in control of Austria. However in 1946, the Allies signed an agreement that loosened their control. The Austrian Parliament was almost relieved of Allied control. A decision of parliament could be overturned only by a unanimous vote by all four Allies: France, England, America and Russia, but the Russian vote was almost always vetoed.

Along comes an Austrian stamp issue in 1946 for a "Never Forget" ("Niemals Vergessen") exhibition on the crimes of Nazism.  Eight stamps were prepared, six of them displayed below. The surtax was intended to pay for the exhibition. 

Two of the stamps, as shown on the left, were censored by the allies as they were considered to have upsetting or unsettling imagery. They were prohibited from release despite them being already printed. The sheets were confiscated, but somehow some stamps survived.

The left stamp shows an SS lightening bolt striking a map of Austria and the right stamp shows a skeleton with an Adolf Hitler mask. Both images are striking but are they more striking than the image of the hand holding the Nazi snake or sweeping away the remnants of Nazism? It is always a question of the beholder. It has been surmised that those images were accusing Austrians of capitulation and the allies did not want to anger those Austrians who willingly accepted the Nazi regime. The Americans needed the Austrians on their side as the Cold War was on the horizon. Is this the only reason?

The offending stamps were replaced by two presumably less offensive stamps. The SS lightning bolts were replaced by a sword and the Hitler skeleton was replaced by the hand of a dying prisoner behind barbed wire. I personally don't think that the hand of a dying prisoner is less offensive because for me, personally, it showed what was happening as the world stood by in silence, which is why we say "Never Again".

The stamps were designed by Alfred Chmielowski, who won the competition for the stamps to accompany the exhibition. The designs must be interpreted against the background of the idea to not offend the Austrians who believed that they were the first victims of Nazism and their feelings were above others who had been persecuted. So they show demonized power anti-fascist and Christian symbolism, (wreath of thorns, seductive snake, etc.). Nothing about anti Semitism is mentioned, even the hand of a dying prisoner is bland.

Designs by Leopold Metzenbauer were rejected. They show, for example as shown on the left, a chain of people passing by a burial ground and in the foreground there is the Jewish star. Perhaps a more apt design for Never Forget, but then again that is my Jewish perspective.

Interestingly enough during the Nazi years, that same snake was used against Judaism, as can be seen in the stamp on the left from German occupied Serbia in 1942. This stamp was part of a set of four issued as a part of an Anti Masonic exhibition. This exhibition was, in effect, an anti-Semitic exhibition, one of many during the Nazi years.


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Saturday, August 21, 2021

When is a label not a label?

I promised Graham Beck that I would provide more information about labels being used as regular postage.

It is no secret that in 1920, Great Britain was given the Mandate to govern an area that the League of Nations called Palestine. This area became known as the British Mandate for Palestine. The specific instructions by the League of Nations was for the British to prepare the territory for future Jewish Statehood. I am not going to go into the politics here as some will agree and others will not, so I will stick to the interesting side, the philatelic side.

After the end of WWII, the British, having had enough of wars, India and their Palestine Mandate, informed the United Nations that they were terminating their mandate as of 15th May 1948. Everyone knew that the Jews were going to declare statehood. Here starts our story of the day.

British Mandate for Palestine, the official body in charge of the postal system, requested that the U.N. accept all responsibility for the continuation of mail services, both inland and abroad. But they apparently received no answer.

Instead of arranging a gradual orderly take over of the postal services by the new Jewish State, the Postmaster General decided to notify everyone of their suspension of all postal services, and the closing down of all post offices between 15th April and 5th May. They notified the UPU that the British Mandate Administration would no longer be responsible for parcels arriving after March 15, and surface mail arriving after April 15, 1948. 

When there is a void, someone steps in. The Jewish community of Palestine, known as the Yishuv, sent an invitation to thirteen Yishuv leaders for an April 18 meeting and to form a body for the purpose of administering the interests of the future Jewish State. They proposed to call this body the Minhelet Ha’am, People’s Administration.

The Minhelet Ha’am took it upon themselves to step in when the British Mandate postal services were discontinued. They agreed to adopt an emergency measure and authorized the use of Jewish National Fund (JNF or Keren Kayemet L’Ysrael) labels, to be validated for postal use by over printing them with the Hebrew word “DOAR” (post) and to be cancelled with a new all-Hebrew canceller, or basically a Minhelet Ha’am postmark.

What is the JNF you ask? Good question. The JNF was founded in 1901 to buy and develop land in Ottoman Palestine and later the British Mandate for Palestine for Jewish settlement. It was a national land purchasing fund that anyone could donate money to help the purchase and development of land. The JNF also issued labels to show their aims. The first stamp, the Zion Stamp, was issued in Vienna in 1902. It depicted a blue Star of David on a white background. At the heart of the Star of David, was the word "Zion". Often their labels looked like postage stamps, including face values.

Back to our story. The JNF labels were validated for postal use by one of the Doar markings which basically turned them into postage stamps. There are three distinct types of postal cancels: Tel Aviv, Haifa and Kiryat Motzkin.

These became known as the Interim issues and were first placed on sale on May 2, 1948 and remained on sale until May 14, 1948. The State of Israel was declared late afternoon on the May 14th and May 15th was a Saturday and there were no postal services. The legitimate use of the labels was supposed end on May 23rd, but as there was a war going on, some leeway was given. The Mandate's postal rates remained unchanged during this period.

JNF stamp without overprint JNF stamp with Haifa overprint JNF stamp with Tel Aviv overprint

Note: Not only JNF labels were used.

As the overprints on the JNF labels were made by students and older people with small rubber stamps, many varieties exist and they don't add to the value of the stamp. The ink used was mostly black in Haifa, and purple and red in Tel-Aviv.

British Mandate stamps were still valid at this time and covers can be found with a mixture of Mandate and Minhelet Ha'am stamps or even Minhelet Ha'am stamps and Israeli Doar Ivri stamps and even a mixture of stamps and cancellers.

The interim period, with the use of labels as postage and different cancellers makes up a very interesting period. There is the special case of Jerusalem, maybe I will discuss this next.

Registered letter from Tiberias, 7th May 1948,10 mills letter rate + 15 mills registry fee.

References: "The Interim Period Postage Stamps of Israel MARCH TO JULY 1948. Bruno Forsher

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Sunday, August 15, 2021

What is a Bishop Mark

What travels around the world but remains in a corner? A postage stamp and its postmark, of course. Today we receive a letter in the mail and we look at the postmark and see when it was posted and why it took so long to get here. But as with the postage stamp, this practice had to have been started somewhere, some how, even though today we take it for granted.

In 1660, Henry Bishop was made Postmaster General of England. This was actually a new position. He had previously had issues with the English royalty and his estate was taken away from him, but all was forgiven and he took the new post of Postmaster General.

At the time there were many complaints of delays in the post, just like today, but unlike today when the cancel clearly shows the date sent, at that time there was no such indication. Henry decided to do something about it.

The first type of British postmark was introduced the following year, in 1661, at the London Chief Office. Henry claimed:

"A stamp is invented, that is putt upon every letter shewing the day of the moneth that every letter comes to this office, so that no letter Carryer may dare to detayne a letter from post to post; which, before, was usual." ~Mercurius Publicus

Translated into simple English, the Bishop Mark, as it became known, was a stamp (a cancel) displaying the day and month of any letter that passed through the post office, meaning letters sent and letters received.

At first the mark was only used in London, usually in black ink and placed on the back of the letter. The original London Bishop Mark consisted of a small circle, bisected horizontally, with the month abbreviated to two letters, in the upper half and the day of the month in the lower half. Initially it was common practice to use the letter “I” instead of a “J” so that affected January, June and July.
  • January ☞ IA
  • February ☞ FE
  • March ☞ MA (also seen as MR)
  • April ☞ AP
  • May ☞ MA
  • June ☞ IV (to differentiate with July)
  • July ☞ IU (also seen as IY)
  • August ☞ AU
  • September ☞ SE
  • October ☞ OC
  • November ☞ NO
  • December  ☞ DE

During the 18th Century the format was changed and the month was displayed in the lower half.

1780 Wrapper sent from Ely with London 29/NO Bishop Mark for 29 November

As the Bishop Mark was also intended for incoming mail, the Foreign section of the General Post introduced a Bishop Mark in 1684. This was different from the English (London) Bishop Mark in that the month was in the lower half.

The use of the Bishop Mark soon spread to Dublin, (Ireland) and then to Edinburgh, (Scotland). When the Scottish Post began to implement the Bishop Mark, they placed the month in the lower part and were known to also use red cancels.

In exhibiting, in Thematics, Bishop Marks open up an opportunity as there is no year displayed. So when you need to refer to a day in the year which happens every year, you can use a cool pre-philatelic item with a Bishop Mark. As an example if you want to talk about Christmas Day, you can have a Bishop Mark of 25 December.

Henry is credited as being the inventor of the first postmark used on mail. Strangely he was only in office until 1663. The design of the Bishop Mark did change over the centuries and I am not going to list them. This is just an introduction for those who have never heard of it. Thank you Henry.

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Stopping the Iranian nuclear bomb

It should come as no secret to anyone that Iran was trying to build a nuclear bomb, with the means to deliver the bomb and the first target would be Israel. In 2005, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, boldly proclaimed that Israel "should be wiped off the face of the earth".

Sounds like a story out of a James Bond movie, when a fanatic gets their hands on a weapon of mass destruction and 007 is sent to save the day, but it isn't. 007 is not real, or is he? It is also no secret that Israel really doesn't want to be the victim of a weapon like this.

Along comes Mohsen Fakhrizadeh Mahabadi, born in 1958, a brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. However Mahabadi was also a physicist, and a senior member of Iran's nuclear program. 

He taught physics at Imam Hussein University in Tehran. A 2007 United Nations Security Council resolution identified him as a senior scientist at the Ministry of Defense and Logistics of the Armed Forces and the former head of the Physics Research Center (PHRC) in Lavizan-Shian. He was the leader of Project AMAD, Iran's Nuclear Program, as well as the Defensive Research and Innovation Organization in his country.

On November 27, 2020 Mahabadi was ambushed while traveling in a black Nissan Teana on a rural road in Absard, a city near Tehran. Iran's foreign minister, suggested that Israel was behind Fakhrizadeh's assassination. It is always easy to blame the Mossad as they would be the logical suspects here. However there are so many differing accounts of the assassination emanating from Iran so the actual details are irrelevant for the purpose of this blog.

On December 15th, the national postal operator released the draft of a postage stamp in Fakhrizadeh's honor.

The stamp, as we can see, is decorated with the image of the Martyr Fakhrizadeh, the flag of Iran, mathematical and chemical formulas, as well as a bullet mark, which is a symbol of terror and martyrdom.

As far as the formulas are concerned, given their apparent inaccuracy, they provoked protests and reactions from several people in cyberspace. In response the President of the Stamp Council, said: 

"The purpose of writing the formula on the image drawn on Fakhrizadeh's stamp was to show the scientific position of this great martyr and it is not intended to use these formulas scientifically."

The final stamp was issued in May 2021 but the design was slightly different. For example, the background formulas were no longer displayed. However, one significant element was still very prominent, located in the lower right corner: the effect of shattered glass by a bullet.

Article reproduced with permission from: https://www.filatelista-tematico-blog

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Saturday, August 7, 2021

"330 is going down", an explosion in mid air

In an episode of Exploring Stamps, Graham spoke of my crash cover and I thought it would be nice to give more information than the cold facts, after all people lost their lives.

February 21, 1970, a cold and wet Saturday, Switzerland was shaken when Swissair 330 bound for Tel Aviv, crashed shortly after take-off from Zurich. Swissair Flight 330 was a regularly scheduled flight from Zurich International Airport in Kloten, Switzerland, to Hong Kong with a planned stopover in Tel Aviv, Israel.

About nine minutes after take-off, during the ascent on a southerly course, a bomb detonated in the aft cargo compartment of the aircraft. The bomb was triggered by a change in atmospheric pressure. The crew desperately tried to turn the plane around and attempt an emergency landing at Zürich but had difficulty seeing the instruments due to smoke in the cockpit. The aircraft deviated more and more to the west. “330 is going down,” co-pilot Armand Etienne told the control tower in German and added “Goodbye everybody” in English. The flight crashed a short time later due to a loss of power, killing everyone on board: 38 passengers and nine crew.

Let us look for a moment at the co pilot Armand Etienne. He was actually born in Odessa, Russia in 1918, but his family came from Lausanne, Switzerland. Armand moved to Australia and joined the RAAF in 1939 when war broke out.

Completing his training he was then assigned to a Squadron operating American-built PB-Y "Catalina" Flying-Boats. One of his fellow crews was forced into the sea, and he promptly set out on a rescue mission to pick them up. He took off to fly the mission in broad daylight, and after flying low over Japanese-held territory, he soon located his stranded comrades, and then safely brought them home. For this remarkable rescue under the eyes of the Japanese, he was decorated for his outstanding courage and grim determination with the Distinguished Flying Cross (D.F.C.).

He joined Swissair in 1953. Armand is often referred to as a Captain but on the fateful flight 330, he was the co-pilot. RIP and thank you for your service.

Continuing with our story, the PFLP-GC (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command) initially claimed responsibility out of their HQ in Beirut Lebanon, but they retracted it after a few days. One possible motive was revenge against Switzerland for three Palestinians who had been sentenced to 12 years imprisonment by a Swiss court.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) was established in April 1968 by Ahmed Jibril. Jibril recently passed away, July 7th. At the time, being of Syrian descent, he was a member of the PFLP, the PLO, and a captain in the Syrian Army. He wanted to focus more on terrorism and less on politics. The PFLP-GC is not to be confused with PFLP of George Habash. Monty Python "Life of Brian" anyone? 

A black instructional marking in French was applied to any mail which translated reads:
Correspondence is from "Coronado" that fell at Würenlingen. Zürich 58 Post Office

Now here we have an interesting side to the story. Within a few days the main suspect was named as a Jordanian who had intended of blowing up an Israeli plane. As a result of a flight diversion, it ended up on a Swissair plane. Yet no suspects were ever taken to court, despite arrest warrants, and despite this being defined as the worst terrorist attack in Swiss history. The Swiss investigator handed his report to the federal attorney-general but complained later that the Swiss authorities seemed to throw a “cloak of silence” over the case.

In September of the same year, a Swissair flight which was on its way to New York, was hijacked and ended up at Dawson's Field, a disused airstrip in Jordanian desert.

In 2016, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) newspaper reported that, while Switzerland was desperately trying to get negotiate to get their hostages released, Swiss Foreign Minister Pierre Graber allegedly secretly contacted the PLO. Using a member of the Swiss parliament as an intermediary, but without informing his fellow government ministers, apparently Graber had come to an agreement under which those charged for the attack on the Swissair plane would be released in return for freeing the hostages. The allegations emerged in a book entitled, “Swiss Terror Years."

In addition the investigation into the bombing of the Swissair flight would be quietly shelved, no wonder no one was charged and everything was hushed up. Switzerland also agreed to use its diplomatic offices to push for international recognition of the PLO. 

The agreement was apparently designed to prevent terrorist attacks on Swiss territory. Strangely Reuters reported that apparently a Swiss investigation found no evidence that a government minister struck a secret deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization. In my opinion, there must have been something as there were no more terror attacks in Switzerland. This does show that terror works.

The Swissair bombing also had an understandable effect on mail including letters and parcels. After the bombing many international carriers suspended mail and cargo services to Israel, claiming that the measure was temporary. One captain of a Swissair flight refused to take outgoing mail, of course he was scared, but agreed when he was informed that he was acting contrary to his company's instructions.

Of course Israel approached the International Postal Union to act against any delays in foreign mail deliveries but this did not help. As a result mail sent or routed to Israel through the UK, Italy, and the USA was required to be sent only by surface mail in the immediate future. Airmail to Israel was no longer permitted.

Hebrew inscription "Arrived via surface mail" via the sea

Once again terrorism wins the day. Check out my blog about the Munich massacre at the Olympics.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2021

V is for Victory

I am going to label this as a fun fact item. As a thematic exhibitor, I always have my eye open for interesting items that I can add to my exhibit. There is a category known as INNOVATION which allows me some leeway to add such items. I should add that not every thematic judge understands how this category can be used well, and not every judge will accept the innovation of the exhibitor. 

I came across this neat item shown here which was used in 1945 for the end of WWII. I saw the V sign of victory and I felt it would go nicely in my exhibit especially the bells as I could use the text, "heard the bells of victory".

But there is far more to this slogan than meets the eye.

The original "V" for Victory" slogan was first conceived by Victor De Lavelye, a Belgian lawyer living in London, England in January 1941 but it did not display the victory bells.

In 1941, it really was over confidence to win the war (wishful thinking in retrospect) as Britain was not exactly winning and the Americans had not yet entered the war. However this slogan was known to have been used in Canada.

Peter Congreve, from Twitter, reports that a similar slogan was introduced in Australia from Aug 1941 and was generally withdrawn by mid-November 1941. It was reported to have only been used on Mondays. Strange!!

In 1943 the British added the Victory Bells to the slogan and dies were sent to all postmasters to be opened only when receiving specific instructions, hopefully when peace broke out, again over confidence as the war was far from over.

The slogan was officially released for use from 8th May to 9th June 1945 to celebrate Victory in Europe Day. However, the 8th and 9th of May, 1945 were Public Holidays, when the Post Offices were presumably closed, this making the 10th May the first day of official usage.

They were used again from 15th August to 15th September 1945 to celebrate Victory over Japan Day. However it turns out that the 15th and 16th August were Bank holidays and the post offices were closed.

But what makes this special? The image is of two bells, with a letter V between them, set in between 5 wavy lines, the 1st, 3rd and 5th of which are partially dotted. Here is the cool part, the wavy lines in the slogan make up ..._ or Morse Code for the letter V for Victory! But wait, the opening motif of Beethoven's 5th Symphony, the short-short-short-long rhythmic pattern also corresponds in Morse code to the letter 'V'. The allies, France, England and America adopted a German's Symphony as an icon of solidarity and resistance!

Note: One source reported that there was premature usage in Birmingham on 22nd April and London on 7th May. I have not yet seen an item like this. "Collecting Slogan Postmarks" by Cyril Parsons, Colin Peachey and George Pearson.