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05.10.2016 - Wilhelm van Loo: Postverkehr in Kurland 1944/45 (Postal Traffic in Courland 1944/45)

(wm) Is it possible that a collecting area that consists of only five postage stamps will offer philatelists a real challenge? When it comes to the postal circumstances in 1944 and 1945 in Kurland (Courland or Kurzeme) the answer must be a clear ‘yes’. The reason is that the German ‘Heeresgruppe Nord’ (Army Group North), later called ‘Heeresgruppe Kurland’ (Army Group Kurland) managed to resist all Soviet attempts to conquer Kurland. In the period between October 1944 until March 1945 six of these ‘Kurland battles’ were fought. Thanks to documentation that could be preserved, the story of the functioning of the military mail in that period could be reconstructed. Wilhelm van Loo has immersed himself for forty years in this subject. In his book Postverkehr in Kurland 1944/45 he describes the military situation of that time and how the field offices functioned. He also identifies the troops and units that were involved, be it on land, in the water or in the air. And he even describes the civilian post, which means that he also deals with the use of the ‘Ostland’ stamps and the ‘Kurland’ stamps with an overprint.
For more than 30 years he researched the authenticity of every ‘Kurland Schnellbrief’ (Courland Express Letter) that he could lay his hands on, covers franked with the expensive bisected stamps that have a high demand among collectors and dealers. The letters were often submitted to him with the request to establishe their status (genuine or fraud). He was able to debunk a large number of fakes, including forgeries of stamps and hand stamps, as well as items that were discerned after the event, i.e. antedated. The discovery of these kind of manipulations was made easier for him thanks to his thorough exploration of data like addressee and sender, their location and the units that they belonged to. In this book, so far the seventh volume of his series under the auspice of the German Federation of Philatelic Experts (BPP), Van Loo not only sums up his life's work as an expert of the BPP, but he also shares all consulted sources and acquired knowledge with his readers.
Thanks to his vast knowledge of photography he is able to present the reader many of his findings in excellent magnification. Not only stamps and covers, but also maps, sketches, and statistics are brought to life. This volume offers a wealth of information; it conveniently sums up the knowledge that up until now has been collected and he presents it in its most updated form. It means that we have to say farewell to a number of the earlier judgments regarding this subject.
In a concluding chapter, Wilhelm Van Loo enters the field of human interest, presenting stories about the fate of individual persons, that he presents under the heading ‘About dying in Courland and surviving in Russian captivity’. On 10 May 1945 some 200,000 Germans and Latvians became prisoners of war, which meant that they were subject to the rules and whims of the Soviet troops. Using a number of poignant documents Van Loo recalls the fate of these unlucky people, and he also pays attention to those researchers and experts that specialized in the philatelic history of Courland.
The extensive volume contains 312 pages in a large format, the same as the previous volumes in this series of publications of the BPP; it fits flawlessly in the series of previously published books under BPP auspices. The book is adequately crafted and printed in full color. Thanks to a contribution of the German Foundation for the Promotion of Philately and Postal History the selling price is very low.
Format 21x28 cm, 312 pages, illustrated (f/c), hardcover with thread stitching, self-published by the author; 2016. Selling price: 32 euros plus 5 euro for package and porto (Germany). More information: please contact Wilhelm van Loo, Aussemstrasse 26, 52066 Aachen (Germany), E-Mail info@wvanloo.de. Orders: Phil*Creativ Verlag, Vogelsrather Weg 27, 41366 Schwalmtal (Germany), telephone ++[0]2163/49760, fax: ++[0]2163/30003, E-Mail faktura@philcreativ.de.