Information on obtaining/reobtaining German citizenship for former German citizens and their descendants who were persecuted on political, racial or religious grounds between January 30, 1933 and May 8, 1945
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The German Constitution:
Article 116 par. 2 of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz) reads:
'Former German citizens who between January 30, 1933 and May 8, 1945 were deprived of their citizenship on political, racial, or religious grounds, and their descendants, shall on application have their citizenship restored. They shall be deemed never to have been deprived of their citizenship if they have established their domicile in Germany after May 8, 1945 and have not expressed a contrary intention.'
The above mentioned group of people mainly includes German Jews and members of the Communist or Social Democratic Parties.
The situation between 1933 and 1945:
Between January 30, 1933 and May 8, 1945 there were basically two laws pertaining to the loss of German citizenship.
With the 'Law on the Revocation of Naturalizations and the Deprivation of the German Citizenship' of July 14, 1933, some persons were deprived of their German citizenship individually. Their names were listed in the Reich Law Gazette ('Reichsgesetzblatt') and with the publication of the particular Reichsgesetzblatt they lost their German citizenship.
The main group of former German citizens, however, lost their citizenship with the 'Eleventh Decree to the Law on the Citizenship of the Reich' of November 25, 1941. This stipulated that Jews living outside Germany could not be German citizens. This mainly affected Jews who had left Germany in the years before or shortly after the beginning of the Second World War.
What does this mean for you?
Whoever lost his/her German citizenship due to either of these two regulations, is entitled to (re-)naturalization according to Article 116 par. 2 of the Basic Law. This applies also to his/her descendants.
However, Art. 116 par. 2 Basic Law only applies where a person was deprived of his/her German citizenship by application of those politically/racially motivated laws.
Whoever, while living outside of Germany, acquired a foreign citizenship upon his/her own application before his/her name was published in the Reich Law Gazette or before November 25, 1941 lost his/her German citizenship as any other German citizen would have lost it in accordance with Sec. 25 of the German Citizenship Act. If you acquired a foreign citizenship (i. e. US or Israel) upon your application and lost your German citizenship not as a result of politically motivated deprivation, you may be eligible nevertheless to reobtain your former German citizenship, if you emigrated from Nazi Germany for political reasons and applied for naturalization in your new home country as a result of this situation (in this case this would not apply to descendants). For further information, please contact the locally competent German mission.
How do I go about it?
The application for naturalization in both cases does not require a special form. Nevertheless, to facilitate the process of searching archives in Germany, we have prepared an application form on our website. Please fill in a printout, sign it and return it to the locally competent German mission with all documents available (e. g. old German passports of the German emigrant, birth certificates of emigrant, marriage certificates, copies of the naturalization papers of other states where the German emigrant had been naturalized after leaving Germany. If you are a descendant of such person, please submit all certificates of birth and marriage necessary to prove your descent from the former German citizen). Your signature under your application should be notarized either by a notary public or by your locally competent German mission or German honorary consul.
Once you have gathered all documents, you can contact the locally competent German mission to set up an appointment to go through your application. Necessary copies will be made of your documents and will be notarized by the consular officer, and the application will be forwarded to the appropriate office in Germany. If you can not come to the German mission personally, you are required to submit all documents as notarized copies. To obtain these, please contact your local notary public. All foreign documents should be translated: however, the Federal Office of Administration in Cologne, Germany, which decides over your application will accept documents in English. Documents in other than Latin scripture, will require translations (e. g. Hebrew, Russian).
The application is free of charge and might take up to a year, depending on the ability to find the necessary documents in archives in Germany. The more information you give, the easier it will be for the German office handling your application (German Federal Office of Administration - Bundesverwaltungsamt) to track down the required information. If you have family members who have already gone through the application process, please provide information on their application or send in a copy of their German certificate of naturalization ('Einbürgerungsurkunde')
Please call attention to name changes/alterations due to naturalization and transcriptions of German names into foreign languages (e. g. Müller to Mueller/Muller/Miller or Grünspan to Greenspan, abbreviations of first names e. g. Alfred to Fred, Johann(es) to John or even complete name changes of first and last names).
Application for naturalization according to Article 116 (2) Basic Law (PDF)
For further information, please contact the German mission responsible for your area.
Information on the Naturalization Claim under Article 116 ( 2) of the German Basic Law
Citizenship - Staatsangehörigkeit
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