“This world under God shall have a new birth of freedom”! The words carved on the Freedom Bell of Berlin denote the beginning of a new era and the end of a gloomy episode. ‘The Freedom Bell Stamps of Berlin’ are nothing but a raconteur of that by-gone epoch! Every piece of stamp tells a story. Along with these small, multi-colored pieces of paper come the long, adventurous and out of the ordinary chronicles. ‘Freedom Bell Stamps of Berlin’ is one such valuable collection that unfolds the entire journal of past events that collectively tell us a lesser-heard story.
The Freedom Bell stamps refer to the special stamps issued by West Berlin between May 1951 and August 1956. Before we go into the details of the stamps, it is necessary to know the story lingering in the background. After the World War II, Germany-the defeated nation was occupied by the allied powers. During the period of the Cold War between USA and USSR, Germany was again divided into two parts viz. West and East; so was the capital city ‘Berlin’. The Western part of Berlin consisted of the American, British, and French occupation sectors while East Berlin consisted of the areas occupied and administered by the Soviet Union. The division of Berlin is the trigger of the Cold War that continued for the next 4-5 decades and the essence and inspiration of our story.
The West Berlin Freedom Bell, or Freiheitsglocke in German, was a gift from Americans to the people of West Berlin in the early days of the Cold War as a show of solidarity. Commissioned by the National Committee for Free Europe and modeled after Philadelphia’s famous Liberty Bell the Freedom Bell was part of a fundraising and propaganda campaign called the “Crusade for Freedom”. The chairman of the campaign was General Lucius D. Clay. The purpose of the campaign was to offer all Americans an opportunity to play a personal part in a demonstration of the “free world’s determination to resist Communist aggression”.
Inspired by the American Liberty Bell, The Freedom Bell of Germany was forged at the British foundry of Gillet and Johnston, and then it was delivered to New York, from where it toured 21 American cities. People in every state were encouraged to sign a Declaration of Freedom. The bell was then sent to West Berlin, and it was permanently installed in the city hall (Rathaus Schoneberg) on United Nations Day, 24th October 1950.
This important evidence of history is featured on one of the important legal tenders of the country. Being featured on stamps not only certifies but also enhances its value in terms of liberty as well as the unity that gives backing to the concept of Democracy.
The first set of the Freedom Bell Stamps was issued between May and August of 1951 to celebrate the hanging of the Freedom Bell in the tower of the Rathaus Schoneberg. This set of five stamps was issued in two phases. The 10Pfennig Black and Green stamp and the 30Pfennig Prussian blue stamp were the first one to be issued on 1st May 1951, followed by the release of the rest threes stamps of 5Pfennig, 20Pfennig, and 40Pfennig which were issued on 6th August 1951. These beautifully engraved stamps feature a sharply detailed depiction of the Freedom Bell, within an ornate circular border. Beneath the bell is the inscription “FREIHEITSGLOCKE / BERLIN”. On this first issue, the bell’s clapper is to the left.
The stamps were re-engraved at the end of the year 1951. Like the first set these stamps were issued in two phases the first phase came in the month of December whereas the second set of two stamps was issued next year that is in January 1952. The new stamps came with slight modifications. These e-engraved stamps now have the bell’s clapper to the right, and the designer’s name appears below the bottom edge of the stamp design.
Third and the final release was introduced between July and October of 1953. This set of the Freedom Bell Stamps of Berlin have the bell’s clapper in the middle (at rest), and there is, no designer name below the bottom edge of the stamp design. These new stamps now were produced in different colours such as Dark ochre brown for 5Pfennig, Blackish opal green for 10Pfennig, Vermilion for 20 Pfennig, Dark cobalt 30Pfennig and Blackish purple violet 40Pfennig.
The two stamps shown in the image above were the last two issues the Freedom Bell Stamps of Berlin which utilized the 1951-1952 Freedom Bell designs. One of them was 20Pfennig, Vermilion Freedom Bell stamp of 1952 which was overprinted and issued on 17th July 1954. The overprint reads: “Wahl des / Bundespräsidenten / in Berlin / 17. Juli 1954” and it commemorated the participation of West Berliners in the presidential election of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The other one is The 20Pfennig Brown was issued on 9th August 1956. It incorporates the original Freedom Bell design of early 1951, with the bell’s clapper to the left, but the color has been changed. The overprint reads: “Berlinhilfe für die Hochwassergeschädigten”, or “Berlin Aid for Flood Victims”. The 10Pfennig surtax was donated to a fund for flood victims. The 1956 issue of Freedom Bell Stamp of Berlin has the words “DEUTSCHE POST” at the bottom of the stamp obliterated and replaced with “DEUTSCHE BUNDESPOST-BERLIN”. By the time this stamp was issued in 1956, the city of West Berlin had been legally incorporated into the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany).
The Freedom Bell has become a national symbol and a treasured relic of freedom. The Freedom Bell Stamps of Berlin have become a remembrance of the difficult times of cold war and a commemoration to the efforts put to terminate it along with the control exercised by the nations which prohibited the future destruction. The Stamps have not only become a chronicle of history but also carries a gentle warning from the past. The stamps, thus, bear a tremendous value both in terms of money and in terms of moral.