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#1
Old 11-21-2012, 02:22 PM
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German "Letters of Transit" (Casablanca)

I know in the movie they're pretty much a McGuffin, but did such things really exist, and if so, how did they work? In the movie, we're supposed to believe that, even though he's the most wanted man in the Reich, Lazlo can breeze across the border by presenting these magical papers. Surely the underground could have forged copies if they worked so well.
#2
Old 11-21-2012, 02:23 PM
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As far as I can tell, they never existed in real life.
#3
Old 11-21-2012, 02:23 PM
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When I began traveling (80's) there were still a few countries that required an exit visa. You used to need special permits to visit Darjeeling, for instance.

Letters of transit? I'm not so sure about.

But I'm anxious to learn, now!
#4
Old 11-21-2012, 03:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Son of a Rich View Post
In the movie, we're supposed to believe that, even though he's the most wanted man in the Reich, Lazlo can breeze across the border by presenting these magical papers.
Lazlo is wanted by the Reich, but he isn't in the Reich. He's in French Morocco. And the letters of transit aren't German, they're French--personally signed by General Weygand (a high Vichy official), although when Peter Lorre says it, to my English-speaking ears, it sounds an awful lot like "de Gaulle".

I have no idea as to the emigration policies of Vichy France, but it's plausible that they wouldn't let Laszlo out without an exit visa of some sort. Dictatorships often make it difficult for people to leave. (Berlin had a wall.) It's not plausible that they would waive their policy because of a magical "letter of transit"; no such thing existed. It's for dramatic purposes only.
#5
Old 11-21-2012, 03:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Son of a Rich View Post
I know in the movie they're pretty much a McGuffin, but did such things really exist, and if so, how did they work? In the movie, we're supposed to believe that, even though he's the most wanted man in the Reich, Lazlo can breeze across the border by presenting these magical papers. Surely the underground could have forged copies if they worked so well.
Diplomatic passports would be afforded the least amount of challenge between friendly (non-waring) countries. An ID card bearing the name Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel would have allowed the bearer to cross any border within the Third Reich's sphere of influence (up until the conspiracy, of course). A King may have issued signet rings, coats of arms, family crest or documents that would be unquestioned within their own countries.

Any forgeries would have had to pretty convincing. The downside of getting caught was a much, much shorter lifetime.
#6
Old 11-21-2012, 04:29 PM
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In The Great Escape the more artistic types used home-made ink and forged typewritten ID documents by hand. Of course, the quality of a typewritten document ITGOD (In The Good Old Days) was nowhere near the quality of a laser print.

Presumably you also have the issue that in the middle of WWII, border and airport guards don't spend their time perusing "wanted" books, there were not faxes arriving every day warning of new criminals in the Vichy domain, and the guards did not watch CNN or "Vichy's Most Wanted" in their spare time. Consequently anyone arriving with an official exit permit and valid passport should be allowed to proceed, unless they were so notorious that even Sargent Schultz would recognize them. After all, everyone knew Rick was American, why wouldn't he and his main squeeze be able to get exit permits?

The presumption is that this magical "Transit paper" did not specify the person... leaving us to wonder why the hell any government would issue blank documents when all they needed to do was put "must fill in name in ink before issuing".
#7
Old 11-21-2012, 04:57 PM
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Originally Posted by md2000 View Post
.....Presumably you also have the issue that in the middle of WWII, border and airport guards don't spend their time perusing "wanted" books, there were not faxes arriving every day warning of new criminals in the Vichy domain, and the guards did not watch CNN or "Vichy's Most Wanted" in their spare time. Consequently anyone arriving with an official exit permit and valid passport should be allowed to proceed, unless they were so notorious that even Sargent Schultz would recognize them. After all, everyone knew Rick was American, why wouldn't he and his main squeeze be able to get exit permits?

The presumption is that this magical "Transit paper" did not specify the person... leaving us to wonder why the hell any government would issue blank documents when all they needed to do was put "must fill in name in ink before issuing".
And why would Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) be shocked, SHOCKED that there was gambling going on in the backroom of Rick's? My impression was that everything and everyone was for sale in Rick's Casablanca. Bribes were expected. Exit visa could be had but for a price Ugarte, for a price. Your papers could be lost or you could be "unavoidably detained" and miss your plane. And maybe the next several planes? Even diplomats (but not Gestapo commanders like Major Heinrich Strasser) would be expected to "grease the wheels" of their exit.

The only unquestionable transit papers in a land of crooks would be lots of money paid at the highest level.
#8
Old 11-21-2012, 06:01 PM
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Originally Posted by doorhinge View Post
And why would Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) be shocked, SHOCKED that there was gambling going on in the backroom of Rick's?


Watch the scene. It's blatantly obvious what's going on.

Spoiler for anyone who hasn't seen the scene:

SPOILER:
Major Strasser demands Renault shut down the club. Rick asks why Renault did it, and he gave an answer solely to come up with a reason. Renault was perfectly aware that there was gambling going on (obviously, he got a cut), but he came up with a lame explanation at the spur of the moment.
#9
Old 11-21-2012, 06:34 PM
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Originally Posted by doorhinge View Post
....The downside of getting caught was a much, much shorter lifetime.
I'm afraid they'd insist.
#10
Old 11-22-2012, 02:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Son of a Rich View Post
I know in the movie they're pretty much a McGuffin, but did such things really exist, and if so, how did they work? In the movie, we're supposed to believe that, even though he's the most wanted man in the Reich, Lazlo can breeze across the border by presenting these magical papers. Surely the underground could have forged copies if they worked so well.
I don't know if we are supposed to think that, since Laszlo did have the letters and was on the plane, but Major Strasser certainly intended to stop the plane anyway, until Rick stopped him. Just another inconsistency. The possessor of the papers cannot be challenged ... and yet ...
#11
Old 11-22-2012, 11:08 AM
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Mrs Piper's grandparents had something similar to a "letter of transit". The emigrated from Hungary to Canada in the 1920s, and to do so had to go through Austria to get to Germany. They were given a special transit visa to go through Austria on the train, heavily marked with "Nicht Aufstehen!" (sorry, I'm doing it by memory, so I've probably got it spelt wrong), which meant that they could not stay in Austria; the visa was solely to permit transit through Austria.

Not a separate document, though; it was stamped in their Hungarian passports.
#12
Old 11-22-2012, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by denquixote View Post
I don't know if we are supposed to think that, since Laszlo did have the letters and was on the plane, but Major Strasser certainly intended to stop the plane anyway, until Rick stopped him. Just another inconsistency. The possessor of the papers cannot be challenged ... and yet ...
Not sure it's an inconsistency. The letters of transit only work their magic with Vichy officials, and after all a Vichy emigration officer does at some point (unseen) examine the papers and let Victor and Ilsa on the plane.

In the ordinary course of events, that would be the end of it. Major Strasser wouldn't even find out about it until later. BUT, because of the preceding melodrama, Louis has alerted Strasser and he drives to the airport. When he attempts to stop the plane, he's acting in a very extralegal manner, bound to provoke a major diplomatic incident. But, he's desperate and heedless of consequences. And indeed, a moment later he gets shot.
#13
Old 11-22-2012, 05:03 PM
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Freddy the pig nailed it. Nothing can not be changed or cancelled- especially by a Dictatorship in time of war.

The idea of an irrevocable letter of transit is ridiculous. As is prancing around Casablanca in a white suit.
#14
Old 11-22-2012, 06:14 PM
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Or abandoning Sam in Casablanca, (after all they've been through together), without so much as by your leave!
#15
Old 11-23-2012, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by elbows View Post
Or abandoning Sam in Casablanca, (after all they've been through together), without so much as by your leave!
What's Rick supposed to do? Say "Sam, pack up your piano, I'm going on the run as a wanted man, and you have no choice but to come with me, rather than being an employable musician of some repute during the kind of time when people are desperate for musical distraction. Sure, the piano is going to slow us down as we flee through the desert, but, hey, I owe it to you to bring you with me, right?"
#16
Old 11-23-2012, 09:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Cicero View Post
The idea of an irrevocable letter of transit is ridiculous. As is prancing around Casablanca in a white suit.
A white suit, nothing. How many bloody outfits and hats did Ilsa have?
#17
Old 11-23-2012, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Freddy the Pig View Post
When he attempts to stop the plane, he's acting in a very extralegal manner, bound to provoke a major diplomatic incident.
Which reminds me: When Laszlo says, "Any violation of neutrality would reflect on Captain Renault," what exactly does he mean? In what way would it "reflect" on Renault, what would the consequences be, and how does this protect him?
#18
Old 11-23-2012, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Cicero View Post
Freddy the pig nailed it. Nothing can not be changed or cancelled- especially by a Dictatorship in time of war.
I guess I should mention that is not entirely correct. Vichy France was not a Dictatorship (in name anyway) but I presume that if Germany had wished anything to happen, it would have happened.
#19
Old 11-23-2012, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by matt_mcl View Post
A white suit, nothing. How many bloody outfits and hats did Ilsa have?
And she continued to shop for scarves.
#20
Old 11-23-2012, 10:37 AM
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But she really wasn't interested.
#21
Old 11-23-2012, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by elbows View Post
Or abandoning Sam in Casablanca, (after all they've been through together), without so much as by your leave!
No, Rick arranged for Sam to stay on when Ferrari bought the Cafe Americain. Not that there was any doubt Sam would agree to say, knowing his place and all that.
#22
Old 11-23-2012, 10:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Sigmagirl View Post
But she really wasn't interested.
Even though for special friends of Rick's there was a special discount.
#23
Old 11-23-2012, 10:17 PM
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Originally Posted by matt_mcl View Post
Which reminds me: When Laszlo says, "Any violation of neutrality would reflect on Captain Renault," what exactly does he mean? In what way would it "reflect" on Renault, what would the consequences be, and how does this protect him?
The government in Vichy was nominally neutral in World War II, and while dependant on German forbearance, wished to present itself to the French people and to the world as something more than Nazi puppets. For Renault to allow a visiting German army officer, who has no legal authority in French Morocco, to arbitrarily arrest or even shoot a legal refugee (Laszlo) would look like shit. The government might even fire Renault as an easy way to "stand up to the Nazis" without doing anything substantive.
#24
Old 11-23-2012, 11:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Cicero View Post
I guess I should mention that is not entirely correct. Vichy France was not a Dictatorship (in name anyway) .
Given that Petain had full powers, without any kind of check or elected representation, it was definitely a dictatorship.
#25
Old 11-24-2012, 11:31 AM
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Originally Posted by denquixote View Post
I don't know if we are supposed to think that, since Laszlo did have the letters and was on the plane, but Major Strasser certainly intended to stop the plane anyway, until Rick stopped him. Just another inconsistency. The possessor of the papers cannot be challenged ... and yet ...
It is only an inconsistency if you assume that Strasser was actually a major in the Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo). There is, of course, an alternate explanation that resolves all of the apparent inconsistencies and errors in the film.

Stranger
#26
Old 11-24-2012, 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Cicero View Post
Vichy France was not a Dictatorship (in name anyway)...
What modern dictatorship has ever called itself a dictatorship?
#27
Old 11-24-2012, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Northern Piper View Post
Mrs Piper's grandparents had something similar to a "letter of transit". The emigrated from Hungary to Canada in the 1920s, and to do so had to go through Austria to get to Germany. They were given a special transit visa to go through Austria on the train, heavily marked with "Nicht Aufstehen!" (sorry, I'm doing it by memory, so I've probably got it spelt wrong), which meant that they could not stay in Austria; the visa was solely to permit transit through Austria.

Not a separate document, though; it was stamped in their Hungarian passports.
Sounds like what happened with one of the Jewish families in Matthew Brzezinski's book, Isaac's Army. The Osnos family managed to get transit visas to assist in their flight from Germany to India. These papers were often good for just 24 hours; sometimes they were legally obtained, sometimes purchased on the black market, sometimes forged; sometimes a stamp in a passport, sometimes a separate document.

Weird, that there was so much red tape in a time of chaos. Bureaucrats will be the last survivors of the apocalypse.
#28
Old 11-24-2012, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
What modern dictatorship has ever called itself a dictatorship?
Who said anything about what they called themselves? You can do better than that.
#29
Old 11-24-2012, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Cicero View Post
Who said anything about what they called themselves? You can do better than that.
The what exactly did you mean by saying Vichy France "was not a Dictatorship (in name anyway)"?

Most modern dictatorships continue to maintain at least the forms and institutions of democracy, even if all power is concentrated in one or a few people. Virtually no dictatorships are dictatorships "in name."
#30
Old 11-24-2012, 02:23 PM
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For the purpose of the thread, I clarified that the Government of the time was the Vichy Govt which was not a Dictatorship in name, but anything that Germany would want, would have happened. That is pretty clear from post #31.

Today, Hitler is known as a Dictator. As is Stalin. Petain or Lavelle are not.

I trust this assists you.

If you want to start a separate thread about colloborationist govts versus dictatorships I would be happy to participate.
#31
Old 11-24-2012, 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Cicero View Post
Today, Hitler is known as a Dictator. As is Stalin. Petain or Laval are not.

.

How would you define Petain then?
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