My grandfather was a German Jew. Because he had converted to Christianity in his youth and married a non-Jew, he believed, at least in the beginning, that his Jewishness was a non-issue. He was wrong, of course.
Beginning in the 1930’s, my grandfather was officially identified as a Jew by the German government (see ID below with the “J” to identify him as a Jew) and his independence and his livelihood were slowly taken away from him. He was forced to relinquish his position as vice-president of a prominent bank and then was forced to sequentially give up small but significant rights – such as the right to own a telephone.
My father, the child of a Jew and a non-Jew and the product of what was known as a “privileged mixed marriage” was, according to the very detailed and specific Nuremburg Laws, dubbed a “mischling ersten grades,” or “mixed breed of the first degree.” He was forced to resign from school and be taught by other persecuted Jews (which, it turns out, led to an excellent education) and, unlike most of his peers, he was not “allowed” to join the Hitler Youth – which at the time, was hard for a young teen who wanted to be accepted.
There’s so much more to tell, and my father has been writing about it all for years, but he doesn’t want me to share details on the internet, so to respect his wishes I will be vague -- except to say that, because of my grandfather’s and my father’s experiences in Germany during World War II, my children and I will likely have the option to obtain German citizenship, and my father can very likely have his own German citizenship reinstated. None of us would have to revoke our American citizenship; instead, we would all have dual citizenship.
The application for German citizenship/naturalization is complicated, with very specific requirements and requiring many qualifying documents (which, fortunately, my father has) and other information. I have been in the process of preparing these applications for a few months now and I’ve been working with my father to gather the many required documents that prove the lineage and the persecution of the family under the Nazi regime.
A primary impetus to head down this road is Aleks’ strong desire to work and live in Germany or elsewhere in the EU. He’ll graduate from the University of Washington next June with a degree in International Relations and minors in history and political science. He then wants to go on to earn an Erasmus Mundes master’s degree in European Economy, State & Society (the IMESS program), so having German citizenship would help greatly for his ability to work and live in Europe. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Aleks “brings the family back” to Germany after two generations in the US!
Peter, too, has entertained the idea of working and living internationally – possibly in Australia – and he’s been told that having an EU passport would help his chances immensely. So there’s that, too.
And yes, there’s just a small twinkle in my head and heart called Ruhpolding, my favorite place on earth. Is it possible that perhaps Tom and I could retire, at least part-time, there? I don’t know, but having options is a good thing.
And you never know when radical politics and insane leadership could drive people from a country that they’ve loved since they could remember and would never consider leaving… until the unthinkable happens. Ah yes – full circle.