German citizenship: Amendment that broadens eligibility
The German Nationality Law has recently been broadened, easing the process of obtaining citizenship for those persecuted by the Nazi regime, as well as their descendants. Before you embark on the official process of applying for citizenship, you should know about the expansions in the law and who is eligible under them.
At our offices in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, you can find an attorney to help you obtain German citizenship. Our offices have extensive experience in the area of foreign citizenship and have already helped thousands of Israelis to obtain European citizenship. If you have ties to Germany, chances are good that you are also eligible to obtain the sought-after citizenship.
Amendment that broadens eligibility for German citizenship
In the past two years, the German parliament has expressed desire and determination to repair past damage caused by the German state. Accordingly, since 2019, parliament members have been promoting laws that uniquely recognize victims of Nazi persecution and their descendants as full German citizens. This article is intended to provide a basic explanation of what is going on in Germany regarding these Jews and their descendants.
Up until 30 August 2019, the German law which benefited descendants of Nazi persecution victims was Section 116 II of the German law book (“Grundgesetz”, or “GG” for short). This section stated that Nazi persecution victims and their descendants would be eligible for German citizenship without conditions or restrictions, provided that the eligibility met the conditions of the citizenship law in effect at the time of the applicant’s birth.
Thus, for example: someone who was born before 1953, with a father who was a Holocaust survivor who fled Germany but lost his citizenship due to antisemitism, would be unconditionally eligible for citizenship without restriction. However, the German citizenship law prior to 1953 stated that citizenship was passed down solely through the father. This would mean that if the same person described above had a mother rather than a father who was a Holocaust survivor who lost German citizenship, he or she would not be eligible.
In this manner, an inequality is created among victims’ descendants, which does not heal the damage and wounds that the victims suffered, since descendants of German fathers have an “advantage” over descendants of German mothers.
In Britain there are many Jews who themselves came from Germany or whose parents came from Germany. As the Brexit process advanced, British citizens’ access to the EU became restricted. As a result, a group formed under the name “Article 116 Exclusions,” creating a sort of lobby to resolve the above discrimination and promote German legislation that would address the needs of the entire population of Nazi persecution victims, with no distinction by sex.
Application of the new regulations and their meaning
On 30 August 2019, the German Minister of Internal Affairs issued new regulations under Section 14 of the German citizenship law. These regulations broaden the pool of those eligible for citizenship, particularly for descendants of Germans who acquired foreign citizenship due to Nazi persecution, thus in effect losing their German citizenship.
This group includes many women who emigrated due to this persecution and lost their German citizenship – either because they acquired foreign citizenship after fleeing the Nazis, or because they married a foreign citizen.
The new regulations allow descendants of persecution victims who belong to this category to apply for citizenship under Section 14 of the German citizenship law, thereby obtaining the citizenship.
This past June (2021), the German parliament approved an amendment to the citizenship law, including to Section 14. It thus effectively granted legal force to the above regulations, and broadened eligibility for all those descendants who faced the restrictions and conditions that distinguished between descendants of a male or female persecution victim.
So who is eligible under these amendments?
- Descendants of former German citizens between the years 1933 and 1945, whose citizenship was revoked for political, racial, or religious reasons.
- Descendants of German citizens whose fathers/mothers were persecuted by the Nazis, fled to another country, and acquired foreign citizenship, even before their citizenship was revoked by the Nazis.
- Descendants of German citizens whose mothers married foreign citizens and thus lost their German citizenship.
- Descendants who were born extramaritally to a German father and foreign mother.
What documents are required and what is the process?
First of all, it is important to note that in this process, according to the leniencies to Section 14 of the citizenship law, a person is not required to give up his current citizenship, nor he is required to pay a fee and/or show financial capacity in order to obtain citizenship. Here is the list of required documents:
- Application form (in German) to the German embassy in the applicant’s country.
- The application must include documents regarding the persecution victim, on the basis of whom the application for naturalization is being submitted. This means documents proving past German citizenship such as a wedding license, a birth certificate, a name-change certificate, etc.
- Several public certificates must be submitted, translated, and stamped with an apostille stamp.
- When the full complement of documents has been prepared, the applicant will be invited to the German embassy for a short interview. At this interview, the existence and accuracy of all the required documents will be checked, as well as general knowledge of German.
Clarification: In the regulations published on 30 August 2019, it was stated explicitly that a very basic level of German is required. Likewise, the interviews will be conducted in a positive spirit.
In practice, a person with no previous knowledge of German whatsoever can prepare appropriately for this interview and pass it successfully – on condition, of course, that he is eligible for citizenship according to everything said above.
- After the interview, the documents will be sent to Germany to undergo a review. Once the review is completed, the applicant will be notified that the naturalization request has been approved. The applicant will then be invited to the German embassy to collect the naturalization certificate. At this point, he can also apply for a passport.
How long does the process take after the amendment broadening eligibility for German citizenship?
The average length of the process is one to two years. However, it is important to add that in many cases this is dependent on existing documents, as well as internal German processes which may play a role, depending on decisions of representatives on the committees appointed to determine eligibility.
Contact us – Obtaining German citizenship
You can obtain a German passport with the help of our offices. The office provides ongoing services to victims of Nazi persecution and their descendants. We have access to German archives which can help in many cases to decipher instances of eligibility. For more information, contact us at the telephone numbers or email address below.
Click here for an article on obtaining Austrian citizenship for Holocaust survivors and their descendants.