Maps tell a story. They may just show the simple topographic layout of the area portrayed (as is the case with most maps produced) or they may have a specific purpose; geology, population, historical studies for example. It is rare that the map itself is the story, as is the case with the map shown here
Strassenkarte 1:300,000, Blatt Belgrad (Beograd). Originally published by Freytag & Berndt.. 1941, C1 (20)
First produced by the Austrian map publisher Freytag & Berndt as one sheet in a road map series of Europe in the 1920’s the map has then been overprinted by the Military Command of the German Army occupying Serbia in August of 1941. This is a rare example of a map produced by the German Army during World War II where they have overprinted an existing commercial map, as opposed to printing their own work.
‘Corrections of this map with thanks accepted’, a message also in French and German above the overprint by the German military indicates that the map was originally published for an international market.
This in itself would make the map interesting. But after the defeat of Germany and the end of the war Allied forces took a large amount of resources from the defeated army, including maps. The Bodleian holds in it’s map collection a large amount of German mapping which has come to us from the Ministry of Defence. This map has had a different route to the library though. Stamps on the opposite side of the map to the corner shown above show that American State and Intelligence branches took the map and others like it. As there was a continuing American
presence in Europe after the war to help in the re-building and security it is impossible to say if the map stayed in Europe or travelled back across the Atlantic. Either way, the stamps make clear that by 1948 the map had been through four important and different hands. How it then made its way into the collection of a London academic institute, who then donated it and many other maps to the Bodleian in 2015, is unknown, just one more twist in the tale of a simple road map with a fascinating history.
Strassenkarte 1:300,000, Blatt Belgrad (Beograd). 1941, C1 (20)