Who is eligible for Austrian citizenship?
In 1938, Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany, known as the German Reich, leading to a mass exodus of Austrian Jews. This event, commonly referred to as “The Anschluss,” resulted in around 200,000 Jews residing in Austria at that time being forced to flee. Some managed to survive the attempted genocide until the end of the war in 1945, seeking refuge in countries like Britain, the United States, and Israel, among others.
In a significant development, a new amendment to the Austrian Citizenship Act was recently passed in September 2020, following twenty years of advocacy by the Jewish Community of Vienna. This new amendment declares that descendants of these survivors are eligible to receive Austrian dual citizenship, essentially acting as a recognition of the injustice suffered by past Austrian Jews. Now, descendants of Holocaust survivors who have fled Austria, specifically between 1933 and 1955, have the opportunity to receive Austrian citizenship.
In the past, the law stated that the only Jews eligible for Austrian citizenship were descendants of forefathers who lived in Austria until 1945. However, recent changes to the law have expanded the eligibility criteria to include the years preceding and following the war, as specified by the mentioned dates. The main reason for the extension of the time period eligibility is in order to account for the orphans, widows, childless, impoverished, and ill survivors who stayed in Austria after the war and found themselves temporarily stranded.
Under the new law, individuals who can provide documented evidence of being direct descendants of victims of Nazi persecution are eligible for citizenship. This means that both Jews and non-Jews can qualify, as long as they meet all the specified criteria. Furthermore, the law recognizes direct descendants, such as children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of those who suffered under Nazi oppression. Notably, the previous version of the law only acknowledged the descendants of male Holocaust survivors, but the revised law now includes descendants of female survivors as well, including mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers.
In terms of military experience, individuals who have voluntarily served in a non-Austrian military face certain limitations according to Austrian law when it comes to acquiring citizenship. This includes individuals who serve in the Israeli Defense Forces as officers or volunteers. As a result, individuals currently serving as officers must wait to submit their application until their service is finished – unlike Israelis who have completed their mandatory military service or civilians who regularly engage in reserve duty. These individuals, unlike those undergoing voluntary military service, do not face any restrictions in their pursuit of citizenship. Furthermore, Austrian citizens who voluntarily enlist in a foreign army (I.E, volunteer or serve as officers in the IDF) will have to relinquish their Austrian citizenship.
How to prove ancestral persecution by the Nazis?
In a stroke of fortune, certain records dating from both before and during the Holocaust managed to survive the war. Over time, efforts were made to recover and preserve these records, and additional documentation was created to bear witness to the immense horrors that occurred. Many of these invaluable primary sources are now housed in archives within Holocaust heritage museums and centers, and fortunately, a growing number of them have been made accessible online.
The bottomline remains that any proof of a Jewish ancestor is a direct link to past persecution by the Nazis. This may be proven by family names and/or ancestral family trees who are historically confirmed to have been Jewish. A DNA test may help match you with a Jewish ancestor, and such information will guarantee Austrian citizenship.
How to obtain Austrian citizenship?
First of all, when applying for an Austrian passport, it is a requirement to prove that either your parents or grandparents were persecuted by the Nazis. It is equally important to prove the familial relation of anyone involved in the application to the persecuted victims. This includes all partners and/or children of the main applicant, who are part of the application process.
For those residing outside of Austria, it is advisable to contact the appropriate Austrian representative authority in their country, such as the Austrian Embassy or Consulate General, to schedule an appointment. Several documents need to be prepared when applying for an Austrian passport. These include a birth certificate, a valid passport, and proof of the ancestor’s emigration from Austria along with the specific date.
Furthermore, a signed citizenship request form is required, which should provide a detailed account of the family member’s past Austrian citizenship and their survival story. This form may inquire about various details such as career, address, and military service, among others. It is also necessary to present proof of Austrian citizenship during the immigration process. This can be established through an expired or ancient Austrian or German passport, a certificate of exile, a resident certificate, or similar documents.
Additionally, it is important to submit the citizenship acquisition request from Israel or any other relevant country. Supporting documents that establish a connection to Austria, such as a marriage license, divorce certificate, name change record, academic diploma, or proof of military service, can also be beneficial. It is possible that the Austrian authorities may request additional documentation, but these requirements should not incur any additional costs.
What are the benefits of obtaining Austrian citizenship?
Acquiring an Austrian passport carries the highly sought-after benefit of European citizenship, which holds immense value for numerous reasons. Primarily, it opens up opportunities to live and work across European Union countries, including prominent nations like Belgium, Germany, Cyprus, Greece, France, and more. Austrian citizens also enjoy the advantage of pursuing subsidized education at renowned European academic institutions such as the esteemed University of Amsterdam and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH). Moreover, holding an Austrian passport grants visa-free travel to the United States. Within Austria itself, individuals can engage in real estate purchases and establish businesses. Furthermore, obtaining Austrian citizenship may render one eligible for specific tax benefits. For instance, Austrian citizens are only required to pay taxes if they reside within the country, which contrasts with other countries like the United States, where American citizens residing abroad may still have tax obligations, particularly on foreign income. It is important to note that the granting of Austrian citizenship is typically free of charge, unless one is availing services from their home country authorities or paying for translations.