“Former German citizens who between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945 were deprived of their German 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 become residents of Germany after 8 May and not expressed a contrary will.” – Article 116 (II), German Basic Law (Grundgesetz).

WHo WE ARE…

Article 116 Exclusions Group represents Germans - predominantly but not exclusively of Jewish heritage - and their descendants, who have unsuccessfully applied for re-naturalisation under Article 116, paragraph 2 of German Basic Law or have been informed that they are not eligible to do so.

As quoted above, Article 116(2) states that former German citizens who were deprived of their nationality during the Third Reich on political, racial or religious grounds shall have their citizenship restored upon application. This also applies to their children and grandchildren. Contrary to the promise of Article 116(2), growing numbers of former citizens and their descendants have had their applications rejected or have been informed that they are not eligible for naturalisation. Article 116 Exclusions Group views these rejections as immoral and unjust. We challenge this injustice and are committed to ensuring that a stop is put to these exclusionary practices.

The purpose and spirit of Article 116(2) of German Basic Law is to repair suffering. We call on the German government to honour the spirit of Article 116(2) of German Basic Law, by ensuring that all descendants of those who had their German citizenship illegally stripped away from them, or were forced to renounce their German citizenship to escape National Socialist persecution, have their citizenship rightfully restored.

Founded in London in late 2018, the group currently has over 100 members from the UK, the United States, Canada, Israel, Columbia, Australia and other countries. Brexit was the catalyst in galvanising collective action owing to the increasing numbers of individuals applying to have their nationality restored in the wake of the referendum. This is not however a Brexit issue; the members of our group whose applications were rejected two, three or four decades ago, can attest to this. We are united in our determination to take all possible action until the current official policy is changed and our aims are fully met.


why were German jews deprived of their citizenship?

Between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945, Nazi Germany passed numerous laws which allowed them to revoke the citizenship of German Jews, or of their political opponents. The Law on the Revocation of Naturalizations and the Deprivation of German Citizenship (Gesetz über den Widerruf von Einbürgerungen und die Aberkennung der deutschen Staatsangehörigkeit) was passed on 14 July 1933 allowing the government to deprive citizens of their citizenship, on an individual basis. A decree published a week later, which laid out instructions for the execution of the law, specified that individuals considered “undesirables” for having behaved in a way that contravenes their duty to their Reich and their Volk were to have their citizenship revoked. “East European Jews” were listed as an example of people whose citizenship should in particular be questioned. The denaturalisation itself was performed by publishing their names in the Deutscher Reichs-Anzeiger and Preußischer Staatsanzeiger; upon publication of their name in these lists, individuals legally lost their German citizenship.

The majority of German Jews lost their citizenship on 25 November 1941 with the 'Eleventh Decree to the Law on the Citizenship of the Reich' (Elfte Verordnung zum Reichsbürgergesetz). This stated that Jewish German citizens living outside of Germany were deprived of their citizenship.


Why are applicants being rejected? REASONS FOR EXCLUSION

There is no one reason for applications being rejected. However, one of the most common reasons is the applicant being born in wedlock to a German mother and non-German father before 1 April 1953. This is because when dealing with children born in wedlock, German citizenship could only be passed through the paternal line until 1974, when the German constitutional court found this to be a contravention of the equality of the sexes ordained by Article 3 part II of the Basic Law. At this point, the German government retroactively gave children born in wedlock to German mothers and non-German fathers the right to receive German citizenship. This was only an option, however, for those born after 31 March 1953. Those born before this date were still excluded.

Applications have also been rejected on the basis that the qualifying ancestor lost their German citizenship before they were officially denaturalised through the publication of their name of one of the expatriation lists in the Reichsanzeiger or before the mass denaturalisation of 1941. This “early” loss of German citizenship happened in two main ways. The first was the acquisition of the citizenship of a foreign nation. The second was, in the case of women, marriage with a foreign citizen, which led to the automatic loss of German citizenship. Individuals’ names did not appear immediately in the Reichsanzeiger after fleeing Germany; indeed, they were often only published years thereafter. Many Jews, especially those who had fled persecution in Nazi Germany and sought the protection of  another country, had no idea if and when their name had been printed. As a result, they seldom knew that they were losing their German citizenship when marrying or becoming citizens of another nation. 

Applications have also been rejected due to the applicant being the adoptive child of German Jewish parents or the applicant being born out of wedlock to a German Jewish father and non-German mother prior to 1993.

The group has also encountered rejections where the applicant is the descendant of an established long-term resident of Germany who was not granted formal German citizenship prior to being compelled to leave Germany. This is a problem for many descendants of the Jewish members of the German communities in the Eastern territories that were annexed as part of the Nazi imperialist expansion project. These Jewish members of German communities - from areas such as Danzig or Czechoslovakia - were excluded from the mass naturalisations to which their non-Jewish counterparts were subject. Both they and their descendants have faced considerable difficulties when trying to gain German citizenship following the end of WWII. 

In all of these cases, the refusal of the reinstatement of citizenship is not only morally reprehensible and unethical, but is discriminatory and legally challengeable.


Unequal Treatment Within Families

We think that these exclusions are unjust on a fundamental level; some examples of how this has effected individuals and families demonstrates this. There are a number of members in the group who were born before 1 April 1953, but have siblings born after the cut off date. While they have had their applications rejected, their siblings - and those siblings’ children - have had their nationality restored.