In August 2021, the German government enacted a major amendment to the German citizenship laws. The changes have created a massive wave of interest in the German diaspora abroad, with many people of German ancestry applying to reclaim their citizenship. The amendments have far-reaching consequences, with new pathways to citizenship opening to descendants of German citizens. The little-known fact, however, is that you do not have to be of German nationality to reclaim your German citizenship through the process of restitution. This makes it one of the most flexible citizenship laws in the world!
Let us explain.
German citizenship through restitution is based on Section 116(2) of the new Act, whereby descendants of German citizens who lost their German citizenship because they were stripped of it through the German laws of 1933 and 1941 can now reclaim it. This includes non-ethnic Germans and people who were subjected to persecution by the Nazi regime. This means everyone who had (or could have) gained their German citizenship between 1918 and 1933 by birth, descent or residency.
Between 1938 and 1941, Hitler invaded many European countries, such as Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. He then declared some of those areas part of the German Reich and rolled out mass naturalization measures. However, non-ethnic Germans, that is Jewish, Roma and Sinti people, political opposition and other’s who didn’t have any German heritage were excluded and not able to naturalize.
This means that direct descendants of people who lived in the lands absorbed into Germany qualify for German citizenship today!
Confused? Here is a case study to make it easier to understand.
Francis’s grandfather, Karl was born in a Jewish family in Czechoslovakia and was a Czechoslovakian citizen at birth. He lived with his parents in the area of Sudetenland. Czechoslovakia was occupied by Germany in two waves – the first in October 1938, when Germany invaded Sudetenland, the area inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans, making Sudetenland an integral part of the Reich. In the second phase, in March 1939, the Nazis occupied the rest of the Czechoslovak territory, mostly inhabited by Czechs, and turned it into a puppet state, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. The Czech residents did not receive German citizenship but were citizens of the Protectorate. Only residents who were ethnically German received German citizenship. For those reasons, although his grandfather wasn’t ethnically German, Francis can claim German citizenship today through the process of restitution.
To qualify, persons who, due to persecution on political, racial or religious grounds between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945 must have:
- given up or lost their German citizenship prior to 26 February 1955 (especially through naturalization upon application in another state)
- been excluded from becoming a German citizen through marriage, legitimation or the collective naturalization of ethnic Germans
- not been naturalized upon application, or been generally excluded from naturalization, which would otherwise have been possible upon application, or
- given up or lost their usual residence in Germany – within the borders of Germany as at 31 December 1937 – provided that residence was established prior to 30 January 1933 or if such persons were children at the time, was established even after 30 January 1933.
It is a complex area of German law so it is best to contact us so that your eligibility can be assessed, free of charge. Our EU citizenship experts will review your family tree and available documents and map out a plan of action. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org