The events of World War II shaped the world we know today. On a geopolitical scale this catastrophe led to organisations like the United Nations, the European Union and NATO. Moreover, it led to the legislating for human rights on an international level. Above all, the events of World War II serve as a reminder of the darkness and disaster that extremism and prejudice can lead to. The victims of this conflict were beyond count and spread all over the world.

If we were to go into all the ways in which World War II shaped our world, this article would never end. Therefore, this article will focus on recent developments in Germany that have led to the expansion of those who are eligible for German citizenship based on their ancestors’ suffering at the hands of the National Socialists’ regime in Germany. These changes are particularly beneficial for those with a German-Jewish background, whose ancestors were forced to leave Germany during that time.

Firstly, we will outline the law relating to German citizenship for Nazi victims and the difference the recent changes make. Secondly, we will highlight how these changes came about. Finally, we will outline the benefits of German citizenship and provide advice on how one can avail of their rights. Our contact details are listed below the article for those who wish to contact us directly.

If you have a particular issue or legal question concerning German Immigration Law, you can contact our law office anytime. Our lawyers for German Immigration Law can be reached by phone, email and also provide video conferencing options. For more legal information, please visit our Immigration Information Germany Center.

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In this piece, we will outline what groups of people – especially those with a Jewish background – are eligible to avail of German citizenship due to Nazi persecution. However, this will be a broad and generalised article. Sometimes, the facts of a case can lead to complications and challenges and therefore, it may be necessary to avail of legal counsel to aid you in your claim.

At Schlun & Elseven we are a multidisciplinary, full-service law firm. We specialise in the area of immigration law and provide legal counsel on other means of availing of German citizenship such as in cases of naturalization and in citizenship through descent. Furthermore, we provide counsel on issues regarding residence permits, the EU Blue Card, family reunification and on many other issues relating to German immigration law as well as in other fields of law. If you require a German lawyer for your case, make sure to contact us today.

German Citizenship for Nazi Victims: The Law – the Grundgesetz

From early in the aftermath of the war Germany acknowledged its debt to those who suffered during World War II. Consequently, German citizenship was provided to Nazi victims under Article 116 (2) of the Grundgesetz (German Constitution). However, the awarding of such rights had limits as to those who could apply. Article 116(2) states:

Former German citizens who, between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945, were deprived of their citizenship on political, racial or religious grounds and their descendants shall, on application, have their citizenship restored. They shall be deemed never to have been deprived of their citizenship if they have established their domicile in Germany after 8 May 1945 and have not expressed a contrary intention.

How citizenship rights were awarded had involved some hurdles. Originally German citizenship for Nazi victims was only eligible through the paternal line. This view excluded those who would have been eligible due to the persecution their family suffered through their maternal line. However, this has changed. The recent developments have contributed to further changes in this rule.

German Citizenship for Nazi Victims: The Developments

Recently there has been growing demand for the law in this field to be expanded. In turn this has contributed to the German Minister for the interior, Herr Horst Seehofer, remarking “”Germany must face up to its historical responsibility towards those who, as the descendants of German citizens who were persecuted by the Nazis (and) have faced legal obstacles to citizenship, especially those whose parents or grandparents were forced to flee abroad”. In particular, the following changes should be viewed with interest by those with Jewish backgrounds.

Consequently, there have been developments in this area and the definition of those who can avail of German citizenship as Nazi victims has been expanded to include the following groups:

  • children born in wedlock prior to 1 April 1953 to German mothers (whose citizenship had been revoked) and non-German fathers,
  • children born out of wedlock before 1 July 1993 to German fathers (whose citizenship had been revoked) and non-German mothers, provided the paternity of those children was recognized or determined under German law prior to their reaching the age of 23,
  • children whose German parent had acquired foreign citizenship and lost their German citizenship amid National Socialist persecution, including children whose mothers emigrated as a result of persecution and lost their citizenship prior to 1 April 1953 by marrying a foreign man.

Furthermore, the hurdles normally needed for availing of citizenship are no longer in place to avail of this ruling. In other words, those applying do not need to prove that they have the financial means to support themselves. As well as this they only need to show basic German language abilities and knowledge of the German legal system and social order.

There is no requirement for eligible candidates to take a test to demonstrate this ability as instead they will just need to go to the local consulate/embassy or other relevant diplomatic representation of Germany in their home country. By doing so, they will only need to outline their case with proof. Should the person be eligible there will be no need to renounce their current citizenship and there will be no financial charge for availing of the citizenship.

How the Changes Came About

The desire to make the changes had been around for a long time. Many claims for German Citizenship for Nazi victims were refused on the grounds that they came through the female line before changes were made on that front. However, the major demand for change arose with the rise in demand for German citizenship by people in the UK in the wake of the Brexit referendum. Article 116(2) of the Grundgesetz is one of the ways by which people could obtain citizenship which brought it back into focus.

A group by the name of Article 116 Exclusion Group put the issue to the forefront. They have made the point that the importance of this change extends beyond Brexit. Although Brexit was the spark that led to the movement, the demand for justice for those who had been mistreated – from those with Jewish ancestors to those with other backgrounds who had also suffered – was of greater importance. That many of the members had rejected claims for German citizenship decades prior to that referendum demonstrates how the desire for this movement was much greater than just Brexit-related.

This move to expand the definition has been a popular one with members of most of the political parties. The Green Party, in particular, championed the cause of the group. The Article 116 Exclusion Group is still active and looking to make further changes to the law relating to the eligibility for German citizenship for descendants of Nazi victims.

The Benefits of German Citizenship

There are many benefits applicable to those with access to German citizenship. As an EU Member State, those with German citizenship can benefit from the rights of EU citizens, namely: freedom of movement within Europe, the ability to work and study in European countries and the ability to live in Germany and other countries. German citizenship also allows one to participate in German elections.

Furthermore, Germany has agreements with many countries around the world allowing its citizens to visit around 180 countries and territories under visa-waiver or visa on arrival conditions. The German passport is regularly ranked near the top of the most valuable passports list according to Henley & Partners Passport Index.

Assistance in Applying for German Citizenship for Nazi Victims

Should you require advice on how to make an application for German citizenship, make sure to contact our office. We are fully aware that every story and case is different and unique. In such matters an application will depend on the facts of the case. Therefore, in order to have the best chance of success it is worth giving yourself competent and knowledgeable legal counsel.

At Schlun & Elseven our lawyers are knowledgeable in a range of legal areas with particular expertise in the field of immigration and citizenship rights. Our lawyers also highly value the importance of clear and direct communication. With this in mind, our team can provide clear legal advice in English as well as German. If you are unsure of whether you are eligible or just not sure how to proceed next contact us directly.

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