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What's that on the back? Recycled maps during times of shortage

This map of the city of Berlin was issued in november 1946. It is a hand drawn map by Otto Ebel. The cover states 'Stadtplan Berlin, unter Berücksichtigung der bis zu Drücklegung erfolgten Umbenennungen von Strassen, Plätzen, usw. und Sektureneinteiling', which translates to 'Cityplan of Berlin, taking into account the renaming of streets, squares, etcetera, as well as the division in sectors, up to the date of issue.'




Only 3 weeks after the city of Berlin surrender to the Russian forces, the newly appointed city administration started with a renaming program. All names associated with persons or events related to Nazism were to be removed. It was estimated that around 10% of all streets, squares, bridges, etcetera, had to renamed. But it was a slow, and poorly coordinated action. And in 1947, the official list of street names that had to be changed was reduced to 151. But in the meantime, many street names had been changed unofficially. Making this map would have been quite a frustrating task. And a task performed in the cold, with an empty stomach.


In postwar Berlin, as well as in all parts of Germany, the situation was difficult. Shortage of food and coal made the winter of 1946 a particular grave period. Paper shortage was so severe, most newspapers were restricted to a twice-weekly publication. In light of shortages in necessities of life, the shortage of paper was probably nothing but a minor nuisance for the inhabitants of Berlin. It did however force publisher and printer of this particular map to be creative. They printed the new map on the blank reverse side of an old one.



A quite decorative grid was printed over the old map to obscure the view, and a label was attached. The grid is quite 'heavy'. Apparently, there was no shortage of printing ink. In order to find out which map was used, we have to turn the map clockwise.



And now, the title can be read: 'Karte des Nordwestbalkan 1:50.000 Deutsche Heereskarte'. Map of North-West Balkan. In the upper right corner (not shown) the name of the specific sheet can be seen: Koricani. So, it is a map from the German Army, produced in 1943-1944. The term 'Heer' is an old name for the army. Together with the Kriegsmarine (the navy) and the Luftwaffe (air force) it formed the Wehrmacht.

Korićani is a village in Bosnia and Herzegovina. During WWII it was a partisan stronghold. In 1992, during the Bosnian War, over 200 civilians were killed by a militia from the Republic Srpska.



Other examples of reused maps


Paper shortage was not only a problem in Germany, and was not new. The Allied Forces had experienced shortages from 1944, especially since the demand of maps increased with their progress in Europe. New maps were printed on the reverse side of captured German army maps. Ironically, many of these captured maps were maps of England, printed by the German Army in preparation of a German invasion of England.

After the liberation of Paris, the Red Cross printed maps of Paris on the backside of captured German maps as well. All these examples however left the face of the old map untouched.


But maps were not only used to make new maps. This map has been used to make an enveloppe.



It is a map from the German town Aschaffenburg. It is located at the border of the river Main, near Frankfurt am Main. It was heavily bombed by the Allied Forces during WWII. The castle (marked with 25 on the map) was almost completely ruined. During the end of the war, the German Army defended Aschaffenburg with much vigor, during the so-called battle of Aschaffenburg.


The map appears to be at scale 1:5.000. It is not a German map: Many locations are indicated with English names: the railway station, marshalling yard, the parcel depot, and the former synagogue. This synagogue was burned to ashes during Kristallnacht in 1938, so the map must have been made after this date. A search in the online index of British Library identifies a possible candidate: Germany. Town Plan of Aschaffenburg. Scale 1: 5,000. [G.S.G.S. No. 4480]. G.S.G.S stands for Geographical Section General Staff, which was also knows as MI4. Its task was to supply maps to the allied forces, as well as to collect data on German maps.

This map is from a series of German town maps, which included maps of Berlin, Hamburg, Düsseldorf etcetera, some of which can be accessed online at British Library. When the war in Europe ended, these maps were deemed redundant. There is little information on this kind of envelopes: one collector shows his collection here. In general, most examples I could find on the internet seem to have been send from postwar Germany, and most of them appear to have been made from G.S.G.S. maps.


No let us reexamine the map: Near the railway station, an example of one of the many Adolf-Hitler-Strassen can be seen. Of course, it was renamed after the war. Frohsinnstrasse, its called today: Joyfulness-street. In their defense: that was the name from before 1933.


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