Passport Request, Nansen Office in Berlin


The Nansen International Office for Refugees was authorized by the League of Nations in the fall of 1930 and began active operations on April 1, 1931. It was the successor to the first international agency dealing with refugees, the High Commission for Refugees, established in June 1921 by the League of Nations under the direction of the Norwegian explorer and statesman Fridtjof Nansen (1861–1930). The League Secretariat had assumed responsibility for international refugees and stateless persons and charged the Nansen office with carrying out its responsibilities in this area. The office provided material, legal, and financial help to nearly a million refugees, including Armenians in Syria and Lebanon and refugees from the Saar who were resettled in Paraguay. After the 1933 Nazi takeover in Germany, the Nansen office was heavily involved in assisting Jews and other persecuted people seeking to leave Germany. The office issued the “Nansen Passport,” an international substitute for a passport, which allowed stateless persons or those deprived of their national passports to enter and transit other countries. This photograph, from the archives of the League of Nations, shows a certificate request being processed at the Nansen office in Berlin, Germany. The Nansen International Office for Refugees was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1938. The archives of the League were transferred to the United Nations in 1946 and are housed at the UN office in Geneva. They were inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World register in 2010.

Last updated: May 24, 2017