I do not have very many postcards cancelled on either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. The oldest that I do have are a few postcards found over the years all on the Ganzachen 1899 New Year 1900 green 5-pfennig Reichspost postal card. I have one unused copy and five that were posted from different cities in the German Empire on either December 31, 1899, or January 1, 1900.
Dresden, Germany – December 31, 1899
Dresden is the capital city of the German state of Saxony and its second most populous city, after Leipzig. It is the 12th most populous city of Germany, the fourth largest by area (after Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne), and the third most populous city in the area of former East Germany, after Berlin and Leipzig. Dresden’s urban area comprises the towns of Freital, Pirna, Radebeul, Meissen, Coswig, Radeberg and Heidenau and has around 790,000 inhabitants. The Dresden metropolitan area has approximately 1.34 million inhabitants. The name of the city as well as the names of most of its boroughs and rivers are of Sorbian origin.
Dresden has a long history as the capital and royal residence for the Electors and Kings of Saxony, who for centuries furnished the city with cultural and artistic splendor, and was once by personal union the family seat of Polish monarchs. The city was known as the Jewel Box, because of its baroque and rococo city center. The controversial American and British bombing of Dresden in World War II towards the end of the war killed approximately 25,000 people, many of whom were civilians, and destroyed the entire city center. After the war, restoration work has helped to reconstruct parts of the historic inner city.
Lüneburg, Germany – December 31, 1899
The Hanseatic City of Lüneburg, also called Lunenburg in English, is a town in the German state of Lower Saxony. It is located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) southeast of another Hanseatic city, Hamburg, and belongs to that city’s wider metropolitan region. The capital of the district which bears its name, it is home to roughly 77,000 people. Lüneburg’s urban area, which includes the surrounding communities of Adendorf, Bardowick, Barendorf and Reppenstedt, has a population of around 103,000. Lüneburg has been allowed to use the title “Hansestadt” (Hanseatic Town) in its name since 2007, in recognition of its membership in the former Hanseatic League.
The Hanseatic League was formed in 1158 in Lübeck, initially as a union of individual merchants, but in 1356 it met as a federation of trading towns at the first general meeting of the Hansetag. Lüneburg’s salt was needed in order to pickle the herring caught in the Baltic Sea and the waters around Norway so that it could be preserved for food inland during periods of fasting when fish (not meat) was permitted. The Scania Market at Scania in Sweden was a major fish market for herring and became one of the most important trade events in Northern Europe in the Middle Ages. Lüneburg’s salt was in great demand and the town quickly became one of the wealthiest and most important towns in the Hanseatic League, together with Bergen and Visby (the fish suppliers) and Lübeck (the central trading post between the Baltic and the interior). In the Middle Ages salt was initially conveyed overland up the Old Salt Road to Lübeck. With the opening of the Stecknitz Canal in 1398 salt could be transported by cog from the Lübeck salt warehouses, the Salzspeicher.
In the centuries after the collapse of the League, it was as if Lüneburg had fallen into a Sleeping Beauty slumber. Heinrich Heine, whose parents lived in Lüneburg from 1822 to 1826, called it his “residence of boredom” (Residenz der Langeweile). Near the end of the 19th century Lüneburg evolved into a garrison town, and it remained so until the 1990s. In the Lüneburg Special Children’s Ward, part of the Lüneburg State Mental Hospital, it is suspected that over 300 children were killed during the Second World War as part of the official Nazi child euthanasia program.
In 1945 Lüneburg surfaced once again in the history books when, south of the town on the hill known as the Timeloberg (near the village of Wendisch Evern) the German Instrument of Surrender was signed that brought the Second World War in Europe to an end. The location is presently inaccessible to the general public as it lies within a military out-of-bounds area. Only a small monument on a nearby track alludes to the event. On May 23, 1945, Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler took his own life in Lüneburg whilst in British Army custody by biting into a potassium cyanide capsule embedded in his teeth before he could be properly interrogated. He was subsequently buried in an unmarked location in a nearby forest.
Posen, Germany – January 1, 1900
Posen was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1848 to 1920. It was established in 1848 following the Greater Poland Uprising as a successor to the Grand Duchy of Posen, which in turn was annexed by Prussia in 1815 from Napoleon’s Duchy of Warsaw. It became part of the German Empire in 1871. Posen (present-day Poznań, Poland) was the provincial capital.
The Polish inhabitants of Posen, who faced discrimination and even forced Germanization, favored the French side during the Franco-Prussian War. France and Napoleon III were known for their support and sympathy for the Poles under Prussian rule Demonstrations at news of Prussian-German victories manifested Polish independence feelings and calls were also made for Polish recruits to desert from the Prussian Army, though these went mostly unheeded. Bismarck regarded these as an indication of a Slavic-Roman encirclement and even a threat to unified Germany. Under German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck renewed Germanisation policies began, including an increase of the police, a colonization commission, and the Kulturkampf. The German Eastern Marches Society (Hakata) pressure group was founded in 1894 and in 1904, special legislation was passed against the Polish population. The legislation of 1908 allowed for the confiscation of Polish-owned property. The Prussian authorities did not permit the development of industries in Posen, so the duchy’s economy was dominated by high-level agriculture.
At the end of World War I, the fate of the province was undecided. The Polish inhabitants demanded the region be included in the newly independent Second Polish Republic, while the German minority refused any territorial concessions. Another Greater Poland Uprising broke out on December 27, 1918, a day after Ignacy Jan Paderewski’s speech. The uprising received little support from the Polish government in Warsaw. After the success of the uprising, Posen province was until mid-1919 an independent state with its own government, currency and military. With the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, most of the province, composed of the areas with a Polish majority, was ceded to Poland and was reformed as the Poznań Voivodeship. The majority-German populated remainder (with Bomst, Fraustadt, Neu Bentschen, Meseritz, Tirschtiegel (partially), Schwerin, Blesen, Schönlanke, Filehne, Schloppe, Deutsch Krone, Tütz, Schneidemühl, Flatow, Jastrow, and Krojanke, about 2,200 square kilometers (850 square miles), was merged with the western remains of former West Prussia and was administered as Posen-West Prussia with Schneidemühl as its capital. This province was dissolved in 1938, when its territory was split between the neighboring Prussian provinces of Silesia, Pomerania and Brandenburg. In 1939, the territory of the former province of Posen was annexed by Nazi Germany and made part of Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia and Reichsgau Wartheland (initially Reichsgau Posen). By the time World War II ended in May 1945, it had been overrun by the Red Army.
Following Germany’s defeat in World War in 1945, at Stalin’s demand all of the German territory east of the newly established Oder–Neisse line of the Potsdam Agreement was either turned over to the Poland or the Soviet Union. All historical parts of the province came under Polish control, and the remaining ethnic German population was expelled by force.
Hildesheim, Germany – January 1, 1900
Hildesheim is a city in Lower Saxony, Germany with 101,693 inhabitants. It is in the district of Hildesheim, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) southeast of Hanover on the banks of the Innerste River, a small tributary of the Leine River. The Holy Roman Emperor Louis the Pious founded the Bishopric of Hildesheim in 815 and created the first settlement with a chapel on the so called Domhügel.
With the Hildesheim Cathedral and the St. Michael’s Church, Hildesheim became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. In 2015 the city and the diocese celebrated their 1200th anniversary.
According to tradition, the city was named after its notorious founder Hildwin. The city is one of the oldest cities in Northern Germany and may have been founded when the bishop moved from Elze to the ford across the River Innerste, which was an important market on the Hellweg trade route. The settlement around the cathedral very quickly developed into a town and was granted market rights by King Otto III in 983. Originally the market was held in a street called Alter Markt (Old Market) which still exists today. The first marketplace was laid out around the church St. Andreas. When the city grew further, a larger market place became necessary. The present market place of Hildesheim was laid out at the beginning of the 13th century when the city had about 5,000 inhabitants.
Stettin, Germany – January 1, 1900
Regierungsbezirk Stettin was a unit of territorial division in the Prussian Province of Pomerania, with Prussia forming part of the German Empire from 1871. It was established in 1816 and existed until 1945. On October 1, 1932 the Stralsund Region was incorporated into the Stettin Region. The Region included all of Western and large parts of Central Pomerania. The seat of the regional president’s office was in the city of Stettin (modern Szczecin). Initially it was located in the Ducal Castle, in 1911 it moved to new premises, now used as the West Pomeranian Voivodeship Office in Poland.
Today, Szczecin is the capital and largest city of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship in northwestern Poland. Located near the Baltic Sea and the German border, it is a major seaport and Poland’s seventh-largest city. As of December 2021, the population was 395,513. Szczecin is located on the river Oder, south of the Szczecin Lagoon and the Bay of Pomerania. The city is situated along the southwestern shore of Dąbie Lake, on both sides of the Oder and on several large islands between the western and eastern branches of the river. Szczecin is adjacent to the town of Police and is the urban center of the Szczecin agglomeration, an extended metropolitan area that includes communities in the German states of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.