The first German stamps were issued on 1st January 1872. Germany stamps were originally printed in two currencies, Groschen and Dialer for the former North German Confederation. Similarly Kreuzer and gulden for the incorporated southern states. In 1874 the German Empire was one of the first 22 signatories at the establishment of the General Postal Union (Universal Postal Union from 1878). Throughout most of World War I Germany was not part of the main battle areas. This was because German troops were in occupation of allied territories. Also, special issues appeared for the East and West Military Command areas in 1916. The Weimar Republic was formed on 9th November 1918 and issued its first stamps on 1st May 1919. In 1933 Hitler became Chancellor and the Third Reich was created, the first stamps of which were issued on 12th April 1933.
During WW2 between 1940–1942 Germany continued to occupy territories until its control stretched from the Pyrenees to the Caucasus and Volga River, and from El Alamein to the North Cape. Gradually during the succeeding years the Allies regained territory. Many historic and rare stamps were issued in these areas, much of a highly provisional nature.
In the period following the surrender Germany was divided into four zones; Russian, American, French and British. Berlin, the former capital, was inside the Russian zone and this was divided into four sectors. The Russian zone became the German Democratic Republic on 7th October 1949, after the Allied zones had become the German Federal Republic on 21stSeptember 1949. The period between 1945–1949 was complicated by the many stamp issues which appeared in different areas and it highly regarded by philatelists as one of 20th Century Europe’s most interesting periods. We recommend the English-language Michel “Germany Specialized” Volumes 1 and 2.
The Russian zone continued to issue stamps inscribed 'Deutsche Post' until the German Democratic Republic was created on 7th October 1949. The authorities released the first stamps inscribed for the new territory on 9th October 1949. Also, these were also valid for use in East Berlin.
Many grand socialist projects are illustrated on the stamps and postal history of the time. In addition, stamps from the West depicting sensitive topics such as German soldiers still held in detention were obscured by black ink. This is what is known to philatelists as ‘Postal Wars’. As a result of the constant need to patrol the boundary to prevent the escape of East German citizens to West Germany, the Berlin Wall, which separated Berlin was built by the East Germans in 1961. Soviet-based reforms in Eastern Europe during the late 1980s led to growing unrest in the German Democratic Republic. This culminated in the opening of the Wall in November 1989 and also the collapse of the Communist Government.
The 'Treaty on the Final Settlement with respect to Germany' was concluded between the two Germanys and the four former occupying powers in September 1990. Unified Germany with effect from 3rd October 1990 as a fully sovereign state.