Due to labor shortages, the German parliament has begun the process of amending Germany’s naturalization laws to incentivize more skilled workers to immigrate. The new bill would reduce the minimum number of years as a permanent resident before naturalization from eight to five and allow applicants to retain dual citizenship.
In addition to making it easier to naturalize, the bill replaces the previous law’s vague requirement of “accepting German social norms”. It explicitly states that behaviors deemed anti-Semitic, racist, or inhumane, which violate the constitutional guarantee of human dignity, will disqualify candidates from naturalization. The change will serve to safeguard the democratic and liberal nature Germany has worked hard to create post WWII.
Acknowledging Israel’s right to exist as a prerequisite for naturalization?
Amid these changes, Tamara Zoeschang, the interior minister of Saxony-Anhalt, a German state, has introduced a law requiring citizenship applicants to affirm in writing their belief in the right of Israel to exist and to condemn any attacks against its existence. This law also instructs naturalization agents to be vigilant for anti-Semitic and anti-Democratic attitudes among applicants.
Critics have raised concerns about this law. They argue that it might disproportionately target Arab or Muslim individuals and that declarations against antisemitism are not likely to deter antisemites from lying. Furthermore, there is debate over the legality and appropriateness of a state-level law in an area of law (immigration) which is typically governed by federal regulations.
Private citizens have also shared their disapproval of the law, mostly through social media. Some have called the law dictatorial while others question its relevance. One user writes: “If I want to acquire Chilean citizenship, do I have to state my opinion about Nigeria? Asking for a friend.”
Germany’s response to the Israel Hamas War vs. Citizens Response
The government of Germany has taken a steadfast position on supporting Israel’s right to defend itself. In response to October 7, they have pre-emptively banned most pro-Palestine demonstrations, citing the high risk they pose of inciting violence. Despite this, “Free Palestine” rallies have taken place in Germany. An unauthorized demonstration in Neukolln on October 18th resulted in 174 arrests, and 65 injured police officers. Protesters used fireworks, set fire to barricades, and pelted police officers with bottles and stones.
The protest comes after an increase in anti-Semitic incidents in Germany. Eight days post October 7, 202 antisemitic incidents were reported, mostly motivated by “anti-Israel activism.”
How does this new bill effect Jewish People of German Descent?
One of the key amendments proposed in the bill is to allow naturalized citizens to have dual citizenship. However, descendant of Germans persecuted by Nazis (i.e. Jews) can seek German citizenship without giving up their current foreign citizenship since 2021. Learn more about gaining German citizenship for descendants of those persecuted by Nazis in our article German citizenship eligibility.
Germany’s unique and painful history in regards to treatment of the Jewish people, which culminated during the Shoah, explain its efforts to confront and learn from its past. It’s encouraging to learn of Germanys support of modern-day Israel and this recent development requires a careful balance between upholding freedom of expression on the one hand, while preventing the resurgence of harmful ideologies, on the other hand.
These recent federal and state-level initiatives to require potential new citizens to declare they accepts Israel’s right to exist, reflect Germany’s complex and evolving approach to immigration, naturalization, and social integration, balancing the need for skilled labor with the imperative to maintain social harmony and uphold democratic values.