Planned Amendment to German Nationality Law – Citizenship for victims of the Nazi regime

On March 24, 2021, the German federal government initiated a new legislative proposal to amend German nationality law in order to provide victims of the National Socialist regime and their descendants with greater legal certainty to regain German citizenship.

Under current law, this group is already entitled to naturalization. Article 116, Paragraph 2 of the German constitutional law grants persons who were expatriated during the rule of the National Socialists between January 1933 and May 1945 the right to repatriation. This right is also transferred to descendants.

In practice, however, there was no explicit right to repatriation for people who were not formally expatriated. These were primarily persecuted people who fled the National Socialists and lost their German citizenship by taking on the nationality of another state, as well as women who married foreigners during the Nazi era and therefore had to give up their German citizenship as prescribed by previous law.

In addition, the federal government is planning to transfer the right of naturalization to people who were excluded from collective naturalization of so-called ‘ethnic Germans’ between 1938 and 1945 due to the racist ideology of the Nazi regime. As a fourth group, foreign citizens who were resident in Germany before January 30, 1933 should be granted a right to naturalization if they were forced to give up their residence due to persecution.

Last year the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community had already certified this extension of the right to naturalization through various decrees to the Federal Office of Administration.

The legislative proposal proposed by the German federal cabinet aims to create greater legal certainty and to demonstrate the high priority the German Federal Government continues to place on reparation. This step is intended to offer victims of Nazi persecution and their descendants an explicit legal right to naturalization.

In addition, there are to be changes in the time limit for the right to naturalization. By abolishing the “generation cut”, which limited the entitlement to a certain number of generations, German citizenship is open to future generations.

ELNET expressly welcomes this step by the German government. The right to naturalization for those persecuted by the Nazi regime should be clearly documented and the application should be made as unbureaucratic as possible. Naturalization procedures for Nazi victims that extend over years are incompatible with its objective of reparation. The German Federal Government should therefore be encouraged in its intention to provide legal clarity here.