Friday, October 14, 2011

German citizenship: 70 years to full-circle

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.

Carl aussweiss - name blurred

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.

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AstroYoga said...

Germany is a great place to live! I totally, unbiasedly recommend it for Alex.

Heidi said...

Since you have done so much homework on the subject, do you happen to know what I need to do to get my expired German passport renewed?? I got a German passport when I was 18 because I was eligible due to my parents both being German citizens when I was born here in Seattle. I also did not have to revoke my American Citizenship, but have dual citizenship that is only recognized in Germany, though I guess having a German passport would make it valid in the EU states now too?? Not sure how that works. Anyway, there were a few occasions I used my German passport rather than my American one (like when going to Greece back in 1984) when it was kind of better to be German than American. :)

Carol said...

Hi Heidi,

Not sure what you need to do, but I'd start here:

Good luck!


Rositta said...

There's something written with the system altogether. When I became a Canadian in 86 Germany revoked my citizenship. I cannot get it back unless I give up the Canadian one. This was Germany's rule. I am happy for you and sad for me as my son also wants an EU passport. I was born there so I consider it unfair. I am though, happy for you, don't get me wrong. Good luck...ciao

Carol said...

Rositta, I can see why this is disconcerting. My German cleaning lady also wants her revoked citizenship back -- and I agree that this seems unfair. My thought is that it's an attempt on Germany's part at reparation to families and descendents, knowing that they can no longer make things right with the actual victims.

vailian said...

Well I guess that means we will see more of you here in Germany! I am trying to get US citizenship for my daughter, but I have heard that she may be forced to decide at age 18 to give up one or the other...

Heidi said...

Yes, it's funny. When you chose to become an American citizen you must revoke your other citizenships (both my parents have become US citizens after living in this country for so many year--they wanted to be able to vote--and they had to give up their German citizenship. However, because I was born of German parents while on foreign soil, I was able to get my German passport and claim dual citizenship. I'm guessing that once granted, that it cannot be revoked at this point, but maybe I'm wrong.

Goofball said...

well let me know when you are in the area ;)

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