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Are German emigrants and their descendants outside Germany entitled to German citizenship? (Legal information)

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

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There are many German emigrants living around the world today, as well as descendants of Jewish refugees originating from Germany, whose citizenship was revoked by the Nazi regime. Many of them are eligible for German citizenship and a German passport, as long as they meet the conditions defined by the German Citizenship Law. Changes made to the law in recent years have expanded the scope of people entitled to German citizenship and extended the eligibility to their descendants. Below you will find an explanation by attorney Michael Decker, a partner in our firm and an expert in German immigration law.

Are German emigrants entitled to renew their citizenship?

Much has already been said about the process of globalization that has characterized the modern world in recent decades. One of the effects of globalization is a widespread increase in migration between countries. However, these processes did not begin only in recent decades. As far back as 100 years ago there were large waves of migration between countries. One of the most well-known waves of migration was that of the Europeans who immigrated to North America – the United States and Canada. An interesting legal issue that arose in this context, and whose implications have become increasingly prominent in recent years, specifically concerns Jewish-German emigrants and their descendants, and the fate of their previous citizenship.

German emigrants

As we know, the Nazi regime’s rise to power led to widespread revocation of German Jews’ citizenship. Accordingly, this fact raises the question as to whether Germans who emigrated during the period of Nazi rule, or even earlier, are entitled today to receive German citizenship by the naturalization procedure. Our firm, which deals extensively with the subject of immigration to Germany, has received a large number of inquiries on the subject since the recent change in the German citizenship law. As a result, we decided to devote an article to the subject. Below we explain the current law regarding the right of German Jews and their descendants to receive German citizenship, along with the legal position of German emigrants in this context.

What does the law stipulate on the matter?

Following an amendment made in 2021, the German Citizenship Law in its current form significantly expands the list of those entitled to German citizenship by the naturalization procedure. The law applies to German Jews whose citizenship was revoked in the 1930s and 1940s due to the racial laws, as well as to their descendants (including children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren). There are estimated to be approximately 3-4 million potential beneficiaries worldwide, who can become German citizens by virtue of their personal eligibility or the eligibility of their ancestors. For a detailed explanation of the subject, see another article published on our website on eligibility for German citizenship, which provides answers to frequently asked questions.

In which cases does the recent amendment affect German emigrants and their descendants?

In general, the new law does not refer to citizens of a particular country. Naturally, there is a significant number of Israelis who meet the eligibility conditions for German citizenship by law. However, the law may also apply to people who emigrated from Germany to other countries following the Nazi regime’s rise to power, after World War II or even before it. As mentioned, German Jews’ citizenship was widely revoked, including those who had already emigrated from Germany. The recent amendment to the law is expected to apply to anyone whose citizenship was revoked following the Nazis’ rise to power and the introduction of racial laws in Germany, as well as to the descendants of those former citizens. In contrast, it is likely that the amendment to the law will not apply to those who renounced their citizenship or have had it revoked for other reasons. It is important to emphasize that each case is examined according to its own circumstances. Accordingly, to check specifically if you or one of your relatives are eligible, we recommend consulting with an attorney specializing in German immigration law, who will be able to provide you with answers based on his/her professional expertise and knowledge of the law.

Contact an attorney specializing in German immigration law

In this article we reviewed the question of the effect of the recent amendment to the German citizenship law on Jewish-German emigrants who left Germany following the Nazi regime’s rise to power, or even earlier. We also explained the eligibility of descendants of German emigrants for citizenship, by virtue of their relatives’ eligibility. If you have any specific questions or need advice or assistance on the subject, you can contact us and we will be happy to help. Our firm, whose offices are located in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, specializes in German immigration law and has extensive professional experience in handling applications for German citizenship, whether you wish to apply from Israel or anywhere else in the world.

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