Germany passes new #citizenship law for descendants of Nazi victims

Of note:

German lawmakers have approved changes that will make it easier for descendants of those who fled Nazi persecution to obtain citizenship.

Under German law, people stripped of their citizenship on political, racial or religious grounds can have it restored, and so can their descendants.

But legal loopholes had prevented many people from benefiting.

Campaigners say the move allow many to reconnect with their German heritage, particularly in the Jewish community.

“We acknowledge the work that the German people have undertaken to honour the memory of those lost and those who suffered in the [Holocaust],” said Felix Couchman, chair of the Article 116 Exclusions Group, which has been lobbying on the issue for years.

“These measures have been necessary stepping stones to rebuilding trust,” he added.

While Germany’s post-war constitution allows citizenship to be restored, the lack of a legal framework meant many people had their applications rejected.

Some were denied because their ancestors had taken another nationality before their citizenship was revoked.

For others it was because they were born to a German mother, but not a German father. Until a change to the law in 1953, German citizenship could only be passed on paternally.

A legal decree was passed in 2019 to help close these loopholes. Now that it has passed the lower house of Germany’s Bundestag, with a large majority, prospective applicants will have a firmer legal footing for their appeal.

The law does also cover those who were directly deprived of their citizenship but, given the passage of time, descendants will be the main beneficiaries.

The new law also bars the naturalisation of people convicted of racist, anti-Semitic or xenophobic acts.

“This is not just about putting things right, it is about apologising in profound shame,” said Interior Minister Horst Seehofer in March, when the government passed the draft law.

“It is a huge fortune for our country if people want to become German, despite the fact that we took everything from their ancestors.”

The move comes as neighbouring Poland comes under the spotlight for a draft law which critics say would make it harder for Jews to recover property seized by Nazi occupiers during World War Two.

The bill, passed by Poland’s lower parliamentary house on Thursday, has been condemned by the US and Israel.

Source: Germany passes new citizenship law for descendants of Nazi victims

Germany: New law eases citizenship for descendants of Nazi victims

Needed change:

The German government on Wednesday agreed to a draft law to grant citizenship to more descendants of Nazi victims.

If enacted, the law should fully close a loophole that led to many victims’ descendants being denied German citizenship, despite a long-standing policy of allowing descendants of persecuted Jews to reclaim citizenship.

Some were denied citizenship because their ancestors fled Germany and changed citizenship before Nazi Germany officially revoked their German citizenship. Others were denied because they were born before April 1, 1953, to a non-German father and a German mother in a gender-discriminating rule.

In 1941, the Nazi regime stripped citizenship from any German Jews living outside its borders, rendering Jewish refugees stateless and stranded. Jews inside the country were stripped of their rights and rendered state subjects.

Before this, many Jews and other victims of Nazi rule had their citizenship stripped of them individually by decree for political or racial reasons.

Enshrining a new rule

The government said the new law was largely symbolic but would set into law a change in rules adopted in 2019.

“This is not just about putting things right, it is about apologizing in profound shame,” said Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.

“It is a huge fortune for our country if people want to become German, despite the fact that we took everything from their ancestors,” he said in a statement.

Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter said formalizing the 2019 rule change was a way of strengthening the legal position of beneficiaries and giving them “the value they deserved.”

‘Injustice cannot be undone’

The president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, said: “During the Nazi era, countless German Jews were forced to flee or were expatriated. In addition, Jews were fundamentally excluded from acquiring German citizenship due to racist legislation. This injustice cannot be undone. But it is a gesture of decency if they and their descendants are given legal opportunities to regain German citizenship.”

His organization had campaigned for the law, saying that the previous decrees had been inadequate.

The loopholes were thrust into the spotlight recently, as many Britons lodged citizenship applications due to Brexit. Many of those based their claim on the Nazi persecution of their ancestors. Numbers rose from 43 such applications in 2015 to 1,506 in 2018, according to ministry figures.

Austria changed its rules in 2019, too, allowing the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who fled the Nazis to be renaturalized. It previously only allowed Holocaust survivors themselves to obtain Austrian citizenship.

Source: Germany: New law eases citizenship for descendants of Nazi victims

Austria offers citizenship to the descendants of Jews who fled the Nazis

Of note, the impact of Brexit on citizenship applications:

Tens of thousands of British citizens are among the many descendants of Jewish refugees who can apply for Austrian citizenship from Tuesday under a new law that campaigners say finally delivers a measure of historic justice for their ancestors’ expulsions under Nazi rule.

About 120,000 Jewish refugees fled persecution after the Nazis took power in Austria in March 1938. The second most common destination after the US was the UK, with up to 20,000 refugees registered in 1945.

Most refugees naturalised in their adoptive countries out of necessity, but the postwar Austrian state had a bar on dual citizenship, so considered them to be foreigners.

Obstacles to former refugees reclaiming Austrian citizenship were lifted in 1993, after the country began its first real debate about its culpability for Nazi-era crimes. Around 10% of survivors took it up. But a law extending the possibility of dual citizenship to descendants eluded its advocates in the Austrian parliament, suggesting a lack of interest in restoring the once 200,000-strong Jewish community, even in principle. One rightwing MP reportedly objected: “Enough has been done for the victims already.”

Source: Austria offers citizenship to the descendants of Jews who fled the Nazis