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Austrian citizenship for descendants of Holocaust survivors

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

As of September 2020, Austria has expanded the criteria for granting Austrian citizenship for descendants of survivors of Nazi persecution. Many Israelis, relatives of Holocaust survivors, are eligible for Austrian citizenship with no need to give up their existing citizenship.

Our law offices specialize in immigration and obtaining citizenship, including American, English, Canadian, Portuguese and Austrian passports. We will be glad to assist you in obtaining Austrian citizenship under the new law.

Who is eligible for Austrian citizenship as descendants of Holocaust survivors?

The law applies to the direct descendants of victims of Nazi persecution (whether Jewish or non-Jewish). The term “direct descendants” refers to children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Holocaust survivors or victims of Nazi persecution according to the law include the survivors of the extermination camps, whether they survived the camps until they were liberated by the Allied forces or managed to escape the camps and go into hiding. The law also covers other victims of Nazi persecution.

The law refers to the descendants of survivors who left Austria between 1933 and 15.05.1955. The law also includes anyone born in Italy, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia or Slovenia who lived in Austria during that period. Finally, the law includes those descendants of Austrian Holocaust victims who did not have Austrian citizenship at the time.

What does the new law add regarding the possibility of obtaining Austrian citizenship?

What is different about the new law? Who is now eligible for Austrian citizenship for descendants of Holocaust survivors who was not eligible before?

Austrian citizenship for descendantsIn addition to the expansion of eligibility to descendants of Holocaust survivors who left Austria at a later date, as was mentioned above, the eligibility based on gender has also been changed. In the past, only children of male Holocaust survivors were eligible for Austrian citizenship. Now, under the new law, descendants of female Holocaust survivors are also eligible.

Before the change, only Nazi persecution victims who left Austria before 9.5.1945 were eligible for citizenship. However, due to the fact that many victims of the regime were forced to stay in Austria for some time after the liberation by the Allies, for lack of ability to emigrate due to health-related or financial reasons, this limitation was removed.

In addition, the new law nullifies the anti-Semitic law from 1921 that ruled that Jews from the Danubian Principalities (the Moldova and Romania area) cannot receive Austrian citizenship.

Who is not eligible for Austrian citizenship for Holocaust survivors?

Causes for rejection of citizenship applications include previous convictions of severe criminal offenses, severe financial crimes, terrorist actions or attempts at harming the Austrian democracy.

Can an Israeli with a military background apply for Austrian citizenship?

Mandatory army service in the IDF does not prevent applicants from receiving Austrian citizenship.

Rulings made by the supreme court in Austria were issued specifically barring applicants with an Austrian-Israeli connection who underwent career army service (voluntary), after serving the mandatory three years. (Nevertheless, it may be possible to appeal this decision and the subject – meaning the person who did career army service – might be considered again in light of the amendment.)

Likewise, reserve army service is not considered voluntary. Therefore, an applicant who does reserve duty in the IDF on a yearly and regular basis, as required by Israeli law, is eligible for Austrian citizenship.

What proof is required in order to obtain citizenship?

It is required to prove that the applicant (or one of the ancestors of the applicant) was indeed a Jew who lived in Austria and was persecuted by the Nazis, as noted above. In addition, it is required to prove the familial relation between this ancestor and each of the applicants and their families (partners, children).

Documents required when applying for an Austrian passport

  • A signed citizenship application, including a life story with detailed biographical details, the story of the Holocaust survivor’s escape, career path, addresses, information on acquired nationalities and army service.
  • A valid passport
  • A birth certificate
  • Proof of Austrian citizenship at the time of emigration (residence certificate, certificate of exile, an old Austrian or German passport)
  • Proof of the date of emigration from Austria
  • Proof of acquiring American citizenship or other nationalities
  • Documentation of army service
  • Proof of name change based on a divorce or marriage certificate, proof of academic degrees and other documents.

The entire process, including the submission of relevant documents, is free of charge, and exempt from administrative fees. The authorized government authority in Austria is permitted to request additional documents, if needed.

All birth and marriage certificates must be presented with an apostille stamp or legalization by an embassy. Documents issued in Hebrew (without duplication into English) require notary translation.

Request for renewed Austrian citizenship

Many Nazi persecution victims between 1933-1945 were stripped of their Austrian citizenship or were forced to give it up in order to immigrate to a different country. They can submit a request (officially called a complaint) to be granted renewed Austrian citizenship, even if they have obtained a different citizenship, without having to forfeit their existing citizenship. This procedure is separate from the procedure of obtaining Austrian citizenship for descendants of survivors, and faster.

There is no time limit on submitting this request, and it is also valid for anyone who held Austrian citizenship in the past but was forced to renounce it in order to immigrate.

The renewed citizenship is valid from the day the application is submitted to the stated authority in the Austrian government. The Austrian citizenship therefore does not pass to the descendants of the applicant in this way. However, the descendants of the applicant can validate their status in another process.

Contact an attorney who specializes in immigration to Austria

If one of your ancestors emigrated from Austria in between the years 1933-1955, and was persecuted by the Nazi regime, it is possible your family members are eligible for Austrian citizenship. Contact an immigration attorney in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv for advice and assistance in obtaining an Austrian passport.

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