Germany under fire over reform of Nazi citizenship rules


Germany’s federal government has been criticised for taking a bureaucratic and contradictory approach towards restoring citizenship for Holocaust survivors and their descendants.

On Wednesday, Bundestag president Wolfgang Schäuble told a special parliamentary sitting, attended by Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, that Germany would never forget its historical responsibility to Holocaust victims and survivors – and their descendants.

Meanwhile, back at work a day later, the federal government used its parliamentary majority to block an opposition proposal to bed down in law liberalised procedures for people who either lost or were stripped of their German citizenship in the Nazi era.

Article 116 of the postwar Basic Law states that “former German citizens who between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945 were deprived of their German citizenship on political, racial, or religious grounds may have their citizenship restored. This generally also applies to their descendants.”

But some who have applied for German citizenship say a gap exists between theory and practice.

The issue has grown in significance since the 2016 Brexit vote in the UK. Where just 43 applications for citizenship restitution were filed in 2015, that had jumped to more than 1,500 annually in 2018. The growing number of applications mirrored a rise in complaints that restitution rules were problematic and applied narrowly.

Reasons for rejection

The UK’s Association of Jewish Refugees has a sizeable file of people denied citizenship, although family members fled Germany after persecution on political, racial and religious grounds. One common reason for rejection was a requirement that the person who fled – the relative of the applicant – is a man, reflecting rules on the transfer of citizenship by fathers only until postwar reform.

Other applicants tell of being refused citizenship because, though their Jewish grandparents saved their lives by fleeing Nazi Germany, they left too soon, in the eyes of today’s German authorities, to qualify as persecuted and thus eligible for restoration of citizenship.

Source: Germany under fire over reform of Nazi citizenship rules

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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