Rear area postal service

Evacuee mail

In March 1915, the Germans demanded that the town halls in the district provide them with lists of people without resources or unable to work, so that they could be evacuated to France. Throughout the war, several evacuation convoys were organised by the Germans with the assistance of the Red Cross.

Directive IIa no. 33160 of 4 December 1915 set out the evacuation procedures:

"1. The following categories of persons are entitled to evacuation:

a) Women and children who, separated from their breadwinner, are unable to support themselves.

b) Children who have been separated from their relatives by war.

c) Sick people, particularly those suffering from lung disease, who cannot receive adequate care here.

d) Women and children from the poorest classes whose financial resources have been exhausted.

e) Men who are unable to work and who are under conscription age.

f) French nurses whose work is no longer needed here.

2 and 3 [...]

4. Persons who are in a position to provide the enemy with valuable information shall be excluded from repatriation. When quarantine is deemed necessary, it must be carried out in good time before transport to the rear assembly area, at designated points which, in the interests of the secrecy of troop transports, must be sufficiently far from the railway line.

All transports must be accompanied by lists in duplicate containing the exact number of persons, their first names, surnames, ages and places of residence, failing which Switzerland will not accept any transports. The number of the Army High Command or Lines of Communication Inspectorate from which the evacuees are arriving may not appear on the lists.

5. The baggage of repatriates must be accurately labelled with the number they bear on the list to be drawn up in accordance with point 4, with their first name, surname and place of residence.

6. All transport must be escorted. Escort personnel must be carefully selected and must prevent the transmission of written messages. In particular, they must also ensure that there is no contact with the persons being transported. To the same end, line commanders must be instructed to ensure strict cordoning off and surveillance. The escorting of individual transports by the secret military police seems desirable. Towards the end of the journey, all transports should be subjected to a thorough inspection. Unnecessary tests should be avoided.

7. Individual trains should be made up in such a way that they contain members of all classes. People who are willing to travel and able to pay for the journey will pay the normal fare.

8. The repatriation of persons suffering from transmissible venereal diseases and other contagious diseases is expressly prohibited, as Switzerland has refused to accept such persons. Any violation of this prohibition would lead to unexpected difficulties with the Swiss Federal Government, which would hinder the continuation of the transport. People with lung disease must be isolated and placed on special lists, in order to prevent the danger of infection and to provide appropriate care for patients in Switzerland. Persons whose age or state of health makes it dangerous to travel must be excluded from the journey.

9. The Army High Command will make all necessary arrangements.

10. The property of deportees left behind must be protected as far as possible. The civil authorities will be widely solicited for this purpose.

11. The repatriation of the mentally ill is regulated by a special decree.

12. The population is informed that individual authorisation to leave can no longer be expected.

Directive IIa n° 34055 of 12 December 1915 states that: "Repatriation authorisation is refused to young men aged 15 and over, unless their physical condition prevents them from being called up for military service at a later date".

Directive IIIc/VIa/IVb no. 62122 of 9 December 1917 stipulated that evacuees could only take 50 Fr per person with them. Silver and gold were forbidden. In exchange for money or precious metals deposited in a bank, the evacuee can obtain a letter of credit.

Before arriving in Switzerland, evacuees could send a short message to their family. Postcards were collected by the soldiers accompanying them. The cards were then returned to the point of departure, where they were processed by the postal control centre.

Postcard sent from LÖRRACH to VALENCIENNES.

The evacuee who wrote this card says that she had just crossed the German-Swiss border. Again, no postal control on departure, but only on arrival at VALENCIENNES.

Postcard sent from WEIL (German-Swiss border) to VALENCIENNES. Postal control on arrival at VALENCIENNES by the 2nd Army (stamp "Geprüft P.Ü.St").

Mail from evacuees is not very common.