Germany Passes Law to Give Descendants of Nazi-Era Refugees Citizenship

By Reuters
June 25, 2021 Updated: June 25, 2021

BERLIN—Germany’s parliament approved changes on Friday that will make it easier for descendants of people who fled Nazi persecution to obtain citizenship, a move Jewish groups described as an important signal in the country responsible for the Holocaust.

The amendments approved by the Bundestag lower house of parliament enshrine in law decrees from 2019 already in force, which followed a campaign by relatives of Nazi-era refugees.

“The ruling coalition has taken important legal steps to ensure that Germany lives up to its historical responsibility,” President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, said.

Relatives of refugees have been angered that their applications for citizenship were rejected despite constitutional guarantees.

Germany’s Basic Law states that former German citizens who between 1933 and 1945 were deprived of their citizenship on political, racial, or religious grounds and their descendants can have their citizenship restored.

However, some had applications rejected or were told they are not eligible to apply, often on the grounds that they were born to a German mother and non-German father. Until 1953, German citizenship could only be passed on through the paternal line.

Under the new law, these loopholes have been closed.

At a time when politicians are warning about a rise in anti-Semitism in Germany, Schuster said law sent an important signal.

“Political education and enlightenment in general must be strengthened in order to push back anti-democratic tendencies,” he said.