What provisions or restrictions (civil and/or military) were in place in the summer of 1945 which governed movement between the four partitioned zones of occupation (British, American, French, Russian) in post-war Germany? What kind of permits or passes were required for movement of civilian and military personnel between the zones? How were they acquired? Did it vary based on the occupying power or was there a set of uniform transit restrictions?

Post-Nazi German Occupation Zone Borders
Post-Nazi German Occupation Zone Borders.
Source: Wikipedia - Allied-Occupied Germany


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The reason I ask is from reading one particular episode in Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America, Annie Jacobsen (Little, Brown and Company, 2014) as follows.

During an interrogation visit in June 1945 to Camp Dustbin (a British counterpart of Ashcan, Camp Dustbin was in Castle Kransberg near Frankfurt am Main, and housed prisoners of a more technical inclination including Albert Speer and Wernher von Braun), British Major Edmund Tilley (part of CIOS chemical weapons team, which later was absorbed into FIAT), learned that Dr. Otto Ambros had been questioned several times by Third Army soldiers but had not been detained. For some reason unknown to Tilley, Third Army had not been informed that Ambros was wanted for war crimes, or that he had served as IG Farben's chief of chemical weapons production for the Third Reich, and was the plant manager at Farben's Buna factory at Auschwitz.

Tilley informed his FIAT superiors at Dustbin about Ambros. The information was relayed to CROWCASS, which then notified SHAEF, insisting that Ambros be arrested and turned over to Sixth Army Group. By the time a Sixth Army team arrived at Ambros's home in Gendorf, he was gone. American Lt. Colonel Philip Tarr (who was actually Tilley's CIOS/FIAT team member) had spirited him away. (Tarr was acting in behalf of the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service as a member of the Enemy Equipment Intelligence Service Team Number One). Tarr had whisked Ambros to Heidelberg for a special task regarding locating hidden documents about tabun gas.

Ambros was released by Tarr, along with another Farben chemist named "Stumpfl" who had worked previously with Ambros, to go retrieve the documents at a factory in Hanau. U.S. CIC personnel arrested Ambros and Stumpfl in Hanau after they had retrieved the hidden documents. Ambros explained to CIC about their mission for Col. Tarr in Heidelberg. The CIC personnel contacted Heidelberg and the two Germans were released (but CIC retained the documents). Upon release, Ambros got in contact with his own network of spies and learned of the arrest order SHAEF had given to U.S. Sixth Army, so instead of returning to Tarr, the two Germans slipped away to Villa Kohlhof near Heidelberg where a staff of Farben employees housed them.

CIOS / FIAT officials from Dustbin finally got in touch with Tarr and instructed him to return with Ambros, but Tarr no longer had custody or control of Ambros, so he did nothing. Major Tilley went searching for Ambros himself and found him at Villa Kohlhof. Tilley intended to take Ambros back to Dustbin but Col. Tarr intervened by lobbying the British Ministry of Supply (responsible for British chemical warfare issues) without success, then flew to Paris and faked a telegram back to Dustbin, pretending to be "Colonel J. T. M. Childs" with the British Ministry of Supply, ordering the release of all Farben chemical warfare scientists at Dustbin (Ambros was not yet in custody at Dustbin though). Officers at Dustbin smelled a rat and contacted the real Col. Childs, who confirmed that the message was a forgery.

But in all the confusion Dr. Ambros slipped away, and, as found on page 157 of Jacobsen's book:

Ambros was able to evade capture by fleeing into the saftey of the French zone.

Several pages of more intrigue and other episodes unfold in Jacobsen's book, until we come back to this on page 182 where we find this:

Initial attempts to capture Dr. Ambros maintained the fiction of civility. "At the end of August or the beginning of September 1945, an attempt was made to induce Ambros to return to the American zone," Tilley wrote in a FIAT report. In response, "Ambros claimed to be unable to return then as the French authorities would not permit him to leave the French zone." Major Tilley knew this was a lie. Ambros regularly traveled back and forth between Ludwigshafen, in the French zone, and the IG Farben guesthouse, Villa Kohlhof, outside Heidelberg, in the American zone.

A sting operation was set up to lure him out, but it failed (Ambros learned it was a sting op through his intelligence network). Long story short, Ambros was eventually caught due to his own hubris. He believed he was untouchable and got careless.

But why didn't Major Tilley just go to the French zone and arrest him? If Dr. Ambros could freely move back and forth, why couldn't Tilley? What kind of passes or permits or transit papers were required for civilian and military personnel to travel between zones at this early post-war stage (Summer and early Autumn, 1945)?

[Note that American Lt. Col. Tarr had no problem leaving the American occupied zone on a moment's notice to fly to Paris, France in order to fake the telegram back to Dustbin.]

Jacobsen does not explain this aspect of the story. I have been searching the following for information on inter-zone travel authorization requirements, but to no avail thus far:

For the Curious

Lt. Col. Tarr's actions were some of the seeds (from the chemical warfare side) of what would become Operation Overcast, which later became Operation (or Project) Paperclip.

  • 1
    Why would a British subject have powers of arrest in France? Oct 2, 2018 at 3:51
  • 3
    The arrest orders were issued by SHAEF which still had supreme authority in the western allied zones, under the ACC (which was disintegrating fast) - and incidentally he was in the American zone (Heidelberg) with those arrest orders in hand, where they were recognized as valid (they were just bypassed by Tarr). There was still a uniform command (of sorts)
    – Kerry L
    Oct 2, 2018 at 3:53
  • 2
    Also, based on the narrative in Jacobsen’s book, Tilley (a British officer) evidently had no problems traveling through the American zone arresting (and interrogating) suspected war criminals. (CIOS was a joint British-American team, so perhaps he was extended authority in the American zone by virtue of CIOS / FIAT. Don’t know, but plausible).
    – Kerry L
    Oct 2, 2018 at 4:15
  • 2
    If they were acting under SHAEF authority they'd have authority in both the US and American (and at least in theory the French) sectors.
    – jwenting
    Oct 2, 2018 at 6:59
  • @jwenting Did you mean the US and the British?
    – Arsak
    Oct 2, 2018 at 8:05

1 Answer 1


The period of early post-war occupation is paramount in characterising the politics in place there and then. It might be extended to characterised the restrictions in place by limiting the time frame to the time when exactly four different zones of occupation existed, as the British and American zones were 'unified' quite early (bi-zone) and then the French zone was joined as well (tri-zone).

Therefore the outer limits for this answer are the establishment of the bi-zone on January 1, 1947. Until that date all those zones were supposed to be "hermetically sealed". There should have been no uncontrolled movement of civilians at all. But of course there were movements. Undetected across zone borders or with a permit across the borders under supervision.

The biggest hindrance was crossing over the Soviet zone border, but the French made life particularly difficult for the other two Western allies. That is because the Soviets are painted as violating early the Potsdam agreement that they signed and the French as not really conforming to it – since they were absent from the negotiations in the first place. This lead to the French accepting some of those provisions and just ignoring others.

Those restrictions on movement were agreed upon as 11 Million soldiers and 14 Million refugees from the East as well as countless homeless people and displaced persons had to be controlled. But the Operations Overcast, Safehaven and Paperclip were also designed to hold German scientists and other qualified personnel either in place or freeing them for patriation into British or American service.

But those restrictions were not enforced immediately.

Erst auf massiven, auch wirtschaftlichen Druck der Amerikaner lenkte Frankreich schließlich ein. Am 22. Juni 1945 schlossen beide Siegermächte ein Abkommen über die Abgrenzung ihrer Zonen. Gut zwei Wochen später räumten die französischen Truppen die beiden Landeshauptstädte Karlsruhe und Stuttgart.

Schon am 19. September proklamierte General Eisenhower die Bildung des neuen Landes – zusammen mit Bayern und (Groß-)Hessen. Als Reaktion auf die frühen amerikanischen Ländergründungen schotteten die Franzosen ihre Zonengrenze ab. Auch für Privatpersonen waren fortan Passierscheine erforderlich. Nun begann auch die französische Besatzungsmacht – zögerlicher als die Amerikaner, aber gleichermaßen willkürlich und ohne Rücksicht auf historisch gewachsene Traditionen –, ihre Zone zu strukturieren.

(Karl Moersch & Reinhold Weber: "Die Zeit nach dem Krieg: Wiederaufbau in Südwestdeutschland", in: "Die Zeit nach dem Krieg: Städte im Wiederaufbau", Kohlhammer: Stuttgart, 2007, PDF: p16.)

Compare that treatment at the French zone border with that on the Soviet one, which got the Churchillian characteristics only on 30. June 1946. (Interzonal traffic.)

Those restrictions were sometimes quite peculiar. The following application for a permit argues that for buying one goat a permit should be given out, please:

enter image description here Sourced from: Saar-Nostalgie, Dokumente, Urkunden, Ausweise, Formulare

Note the scraped off swastika on the stamp.

The above link shows quite a number of colourful examples, showcasing the chaotic parallelism of documents. That means: make it look official, and you got quite a chance for anything. Then, if you get caught with one of those not legitimate; some very tough luck may have been in store for the perpetrator…

While the aim was to issue to everyone a 'nobody moves' order, millions did travel and migrated. Cars, buses and trains were controlled tightly, other borders were practically green. The travel permits were eventually unified on June, 30 1946 with the inter-zone travel pass:

enter image description here enter image description here

The French were therefore quite special in how they treated their occupation zone and the civilians there. Concerning the actual case, it has to be noted, that there was a bit back and forth regarding regulations:

The American counter-proposal was based on strictly logistical conceptions. The boundary between the French and American zones was to be drawn so as to leave in the American zone the main highway, or Autobahn, through Ulm-Stuttgart-Karlsruhe, aswell as the trunk railroad. Administrative and traditional divi sions were disregarded completely. The sole concern was to as sure access under American control to theMiddle Rhine and the seaports. On two occasions Mr. Winant and I wired strong protests to Washington against the breaking-up of both Baden and W?rttemberg. We pointed out that if it was the American intention to revive and strengthen the federal states in Germany as a possible safeguard against excessive centralization of power, it was hardly logical to begin the reconstruction of Germany by breaking up two of the L?nder possessing a strong sense of regional identity and a certain attachment to democratic self government. We suggested that some other device be sought for assuring freedom of movement over the highways and railways. Renewed instructions from Washington to insist on the War Department's proposal finally ended in the French acquiescing. The only concessions were the addition of Baden-Baden to the French zone and a provision for French access to Baden administrative records located at Karlsruhe, in addition to written French assurance that United States forces would enjoy freedom of passage across and above all parts of the French zone.

By early June 1945 these aspects of the determination of the French zone had been completed in the bilateral Franco-British and Franco-American negotiations. The Soviet representative had meanwhile been inquiring somewhat impatiently when the agreement would be ready to sign in the EAC. Now, however, a new problem, and a new source of delay, arose when the third Protocol on zones was put before the EAC. The American and British military authorities now insisted that the assignment of a sector to French occupation in Berlin required a partial readjustment of the sectors assigned earlier to the three other Powers.

Philip E. Mosely: "The Occupation of Germany: New Light on How the Zones Were Drawn", Foreign Affairs, Vol. 28, No. 4 (Jul., 1950), pp. 580-604.

We have to observe the distinction between freedom of movement and jurisdiction here. The Allies had an agreement that in theory should have allowed all of the military personnel freedom of movement throughout the occupation zones. However, moving Germans around was not part of that agreement, and *re-*moving Germans that were thought of "useful" was disliked by every Allied power.

In the case of Ambros the French found him apparently extremely useful for their purposes. The French had to be bribed to release him into American hands, and only accepted giving up Ambros after the Americans re-arrested Hermann Röchling, only to swap him with the French against Ambros. (Kim C. Priemel & Alexa Stiller: "NMT: Die Nürnberger Militärtribunale zwischen Geschichte, Gerechtigkeit und Rechtschöpfung", Hamburger Edition HIS, 28.05.2013, p475.)

  • Really Great info! +1 and Thanks! If I have translated the above quote from Karl Moersch & Reinhold Weber correctly, the French "closed off their zone" on September 19, 1945 requiring passports from thenceforth for transit. However, Major Tilley's French zone entry challenge was late August or early September (for "early" I would posit within the first half of the month, no later than the 15th). After the 19th, I would assume civilians like Ambros would require a passport - would that apply equally to military personnel of the other Allied nations?
    – Kerry L
    Oct 3, 2018 at 15:03
  • 1
    @KerryL Early on, every movement of civilians required a permit, theoretically. That failed big. Traveling by foot or hidden by helpers was always possible. The French only started to control their zone much stricter after that date above. The allies had previously agreed to allow all their personnel to move through each zone, but French and Soviets had often own ideas about that; cf Berlin blockade. It seems that Tilley could have gone there almost at whim, but he seems to have asked for special powers in the French zone and got that denied? They all fought hard for the brains. Oct 3, 2018 at 15:34
  • I found an unsourced reference in another (mediocre) Operation Paperclip book that British-American T-Forces were given special passes that allowed unrestricted movement between all the non-Soviet occupation zones. Would there be any surviving or photographic examples of one of these passes? I haven't found an example of one yet.
    – Kerry L
    Oct 20, 2018 at 14:19
  • 1
    @KerryL Longden's book mentions that they constantly got special passes for all kinds of stuff way before '45. I searched around and got neither for t-force nor 30AU meaningful results. But I'll keep looking… Those will surface (but given Longden I wonder whether that info is not some kind of conflation?) Oct 20, 2018 at 14:40

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