How can descendants of German Jews Obtain German Citizenship?
Before the Nazi Party came to power in 1933, the Jewish community in Germany was thriving and over half a million Jews had German citizenship. In the years leading up to World War II, Jews living in Germany suffered horrendous handling by the authorities and as a result, many of them had to flee the country.
In 1939, only 214,000 Jews remained in Germany. Most of them escaped to other countries, such as neighboring European countries, USA, the UK, Canada, etc. Many of those Jews lost their German citizenship, either because it was directly stripped from them by the Nazis, or because they were forced to immigrate in order to escape Nazi persecution (causing them to lose their citizenship).
New German Citizenship law
Nowadays, Germany is trying to atone for this terrible injustice and grants citizenship to the direct descendants of Nazi persecution victims. Thus, if you, your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents resided in Germany between 1933-1945, you might be eligible for a German passport.
Since 2019, Germany has made several amendments to the German Nationality Law, which significantly expand the eligibility for receiving German citizenship. Consequently, there are about 3-4 million people around the world who are eligible to receive German citizenship.
In this article, we will explain who is eligible to apply for German citizenship, describe the process required to obtain citizenship, answer frequently asked questions, and more.
Our law firm specializes in immigration law in various countries, including Germany, Austria, Portugal, and more. We have a comprehensive understanding of German law, which allows us to provide our clients with an efficient, professional, and dedicated service. We will be at your disposal and manage all steps of the procedure, until you obtain a German passport.
Who is Eligible for German Citizenship?
The Nationality Law in Germany has been updated several times in recent years. Each change expanded the criteria according to which a person is entitled to German citizenship, especially regarding individuals who were persecuted by the Nazi regime, and their direct descendants.
According to the current law, descendants of former German citizens who lived in Germany between 30.1.1933 – 8.5.1945, whose citizenship was stripped for political, racial, or religious reasons – are eligible for German citizenship.
Moreover, descendants of German citizens who fled the country due to persecution by the Nazis, and acquired foreign citizenship in another country (causing them to lose their German citizenship), even before the Nazi government revoked their citizenship, still might be eligible for citizenship.
In addition, individuals who were not German citizens, but lived in Germany as residents and left during the dates mentioned above, will also be eligible to receive citizenship.
It should be noted that generations can be skipped when it comes to applying for German citizenship. That is, if your grandfather was a German citizen who deserves to receive citizenship, but he is not interested, you can submit the request for citizenship for yourself, without the involvement of your grandfather or one of your parents.
Which Documents Are Required to Obtain German Citizenship?
The following is the list of documents required by German law in order to apply for German citizenship:
- An application form, written in German, should be submitted to the German embassy in the applicant’s country. For example, if you live in Israel, the form is intended for the German embassy in Israel.
- Proof of German citizenship in the years 1933-1945. For example: marriage certificates, birth certificates, name change certificates, etc. It should be noted that some public certificates must be translated and stamped with an Apostille stamp.
- If your ancestor was not a citizen, but lived in Germany and left between the years 1933-1945, documents must be submitted to support this claim. For example: proof of lost property, tax paid as an exit fee in order to leave Germany, etc.
- Documents that demonstrate the compensation family members received due to the persecution by the Nazis, if any compensation was received.
- Documents proving the familiar relations between you and the ancestor who was persecuted by the Nazis in Germany.
Please note, if there are several family members applying for citizenship, you will have to submit the forms and documents together.
We have encountered quite a few clients who know their ancestors were German citizens in the relevant years, but don’t have the documents to prove it. In these situations, our firm can assist you to obtain the necessary documents.
The authorities in Germany are very organized and keep old documents in official archives. Therefore, even if your relatives couldn’t take documents with them when they fled the Nazis, or the documents got lost at some point – there is a good chance that a record of their residence in Germany can be found in an archive.
If you are facing a similar problem, do not hesitate to contact our offices. We can assist you with locating the missing documents through the archives in Germany, and help you obtain German citizenship.
What Is the Process for Obtaining German Citizenship?
After gathering all of the required documents (as mentioned in the previous section), you will have to attend an interview at the German embassy.
This interview has two main purposes: the first, is to ensure that you have all the required documents and that they are in order. The second, is to assess your proficiency in the German language.
This is not a comprehensive test of the German language (as required for obtaining citizenship for other reasons), but a much simpler version. According to the new law, the test is mainly a formality. From our experience, even someone with no prior knowledge of the German language can prepare for this part and complete it successfully.
After the interview, your submitted documents will be sent to Germany for examination. After your request will be processed and reviewed, you will receive a notification regarding the outcome. If the application for citizenship will be approved, you will be able to order a German passport.
The process of obtaining German citizenship can sometimes be daunting, lengthy, and full of bureaucratic difficulties. To get the best results, it is highly recommended to be accompanied by a lawyer who is an expert in this field.
How Long Does the Process Take?
The process of obtaining German citizenship is not quick and can take between one and two years. The total amount of time it will take to complete the process might depend on the availability of the embassy to schedule the interview, the documents you submit, as well as internal processes in Germany that are beyond your control.
How Much Does the Process Cost?
There is no need to pay a fee for applying for German citizenship for descendants of German citizens who were persecuted by the Nazis.
Nevertheless, if you consult with a lawyer, or receive assistance from professional genealogists, you will be required to pay for these services out of pocket.
Is Dual Citizenship Possible?
Many countries do not allow dual citizenship, and individuals who are interested in obtaining additional citizenship, are required to renounce any other citizenship they may have. However, in the specific case of Jewish descendants of Nazi victims, this rule does not apply.
You can acquire German citizenship, and keep the other citizenship you have. For example, if you have Israeli citizenship and you qualify for German citizenship as a descendant of a Nazi victim, you will be able to have both.
To read more about the advantages of a second passport, click here.
Can Soldiers Apply for German Citizenship?
This is a great question, especially for Israeli citizens who serve in the IDF. According to the current German law, those who were previously soldiers of foreign armies are eligible for German citizenship. That is to say, if you were, in the past, a soldier in any military force, but you are not currently on active duty, you can apply for German citizenship.
However, anyone who serves in the military now, or is expected to in the future, cannot apply for German citizenship. If you try, your application will be rejected even if you are eligible for citizenship according to all other criteria. You will need to wait until your military service ends, and only then submit the application for German citizenship.
Are Civil Servants Eligible to Apply for German Citizenship?
Civil servants from other countries, such as teachers, officials in government offices, and so on, are eligible to apply for German citizenship. Unlike soldiers in active military service, the German government sees no issue in granting citizenship to civil servants of other countries.
Are Family Members Eligible to Receive a German Passport?
This is one of the frequently asked questions we encounter: if I am eligible for German citizenship, does this also apply to my wife and kids?
Spouses and children are not in the same category when it comes to German citizenship. In order to answer this question, we will divide the answer into two parts.
Regarding children, it depends on whether they were born before or after one of their parents was found eligible to receive German citizenship. If the children were born when the parents were already German citizens, they are entitled to citizenship automatically. In this case, the child should be registered at the German embassy in order to receive German citizenship.
On the other hand, if the parents obtained German citizenship after the children were born, the children would also have to apply for citizenship. Usually, this procedure is easier and faster, since the parents have already submitted the documents and proved their eligibility for German citizenship.
Regarding spouses, they are not eligible for German citizenship just because they are married to a person who is a citizen. However, spouses have other possible routes to citizenship, for example, if they immigrate to Germany with their partners.
Are There Other Ways to Acquire German Citizenship?
If you do not meet the requirements on eligibility for German citizenship for victims of the Nazis, there are other options you can explore.
It is possible to acquire German citizenship if you live in Germany. In that case, you must live legally in Germany, show financial capability, be fluent in German, and demonstrate knowledge of the local culture.
German Citizenship for Descendants of Jews From Gdansk
The German government is willing to grant citizenship not only to those who lived on official German soil, but also to Jews from the city of Gdansk (previously named Danzig). Gdansk was a part of Germany until the First World War, after which it was declared an independent territory by the UN.
Nevertheless, the majority of Gdansk’s citizens were of German origin. Therefore, the presence of the Nazi party was very significant, resulting in Jews escaping the city during the 1930s.
Nowadays, the city is a part of Poland, and yet, Germany acknowledges the damage caused to the city’s residents by the Nazis. Consequently, the German government grants German citizenship to former residents of Gdansk who left between 1933-1945, and their direct descendants.
Similar to the process described in previous parts of the article, you will need to have documents proving that your direct ancestors lived in the city. Such documents can be birth certificates, marriage certificates, a diploma from academic institution, etc.
The Advantages of a German Passport
A German passport is one of the most mighty passports in Europe, so it is no surprise that many people are interested in acquiring it.
If you have a German passport, you can travel to any of the 28 member states of the European Union without any time limit. You will have the opportunity to travel and live in each of these countries. In addition, you can enter 153 different countries without the need for a visa. For comparison, Israeli citizens can only enter 117 countries without a visa, and in most cases will be limited to a stay of up to 90 days.
Furthermore, with a German passport, you will be able to work in any of the EU countries without having to worry about a work visa. This will give you an advantage over foreign workers, since European employers are usually not interested in investing time and money to help employees get work visas.
Additionally, health-wise, you should know that most European countries offer free healthcare services. Therefore, if the health services in your country are not enough, or if they are very expensive (for example in the US), as a holder of German citizenship you will be able to receive medical treatments in Europe.
Click here to read more about the advantages of a German passport.
Recent Changes in German Law
If you have previously inquired about obtaining a German passport and realized you are not eligible, it might be worth checking again. In recent years, several changes were made to the German Nationality law, which expanded the number of people eligible for German citizenship.
Until 2019, German law stated that victims of the Nazis and their descendants would be eligible for German citizenship, only if they meet the conditions of the citizenship law that existed at the time of the applicant’s birth. This law had some unfortunate consequences, for example, according to the law that was valid in Germany until 1953, citizenship passed only on the male side of the family.
Therefore, if your father was born before 1953 and was a German citizen whose citizenship was revoked by the Nazis, you were eligible to receive German citizenship without any restrictions. However, if the person persecuted by the Nazis were a woman born before 1953, you were not eligible to receive German citizenship.
This legal situation was clearly faulty, as it created inequality among the descendants of Nazi victims and disadvantaged descendants of female citizens. The changes introduced in recent years eliminated this problematic situation and now, every direct descendant (male or female) is eligible for German citizenship.
In addition, as a result of the amendments to the law, current citizenship applicants are not required to pass a complex language test or arrive in Germany as a part of the naturalization process. Subsequently, the process of obtaining citizenship is expected to be easier and more efficient for descendants of Nazi victims.
What Our Law Firm Offers
Considering applying for German citizenship? Keep in mind this can be a long and complicated process. The German authorities are known to be strict and evaluate every citizenship application with great attention to detail. Therefore, it is essential to work only with lawyers who specialize in this field.
If you choose to work with us, our experts will examine your circumstances and conclude whether you are eligible for German citizenship. If so, we will help you find the required documents for the application. In case you do not have the documents in your possession, we may be able to help. We work with professional genealogists who can find the original documents in German archives.
Our law firm offers every legal service you might need to obtain German citizenship, including a German-speaking department that can translate documents, and notary services that can authenticate documents, as required by German law.