EXCLUDED BY ANTIQUATED LAWS

 
Friedel Kastner with sister Berta and a friend, May 1938.,, about one month before emigration jpeg.jpeg
 

I was born in London in 1948 to a German Jewish mother and an Italian Jewish father who’d both escaped from fascist Europe in 1938. They met in London and married there in March 1941. When my mother was pregnant with me, both my parents naturalized to ensure I'd be British.

I'm not eligible to reclaim German citizenship under article 116 (2) because I was born in wedlock before April 1st 1953 and my father wasn’t German. I was told by the German Embassy that I qualified for citizenship under StAG 14 - which entitles, among others, descendants of German mothers who were forced to flee Nazi persecution, and of non-German fathers, to claim citizenship if they have ties with Germany and can speak the language. But despite having lived and worked in Germany as an independent adult for 14 years and speaking fluent German, I’ve since discovered that I'm not eligible through this route either, as I was born before 1949.

Nor am I entitled to Italian citizenship, as, according to Italian law, my father would have had to have been Italian at the time of my birth.

So, born to two Jewish parents who'd fled Nazi persecution 80 years ago, my grandmother, aunt, and several great-aunts and uncles murdered in Nazi death camps, I'm not entitled to citizenship in either of the countries that forced my parents to flee for their lives. But if I had evidence that any of my ancestors had fled from Spain in 1492, I’d be entitled to Spanish citizenship. I’m even eligible for Israeli citizenship as my ancestors are deemed to have lived there 2000 years ago, though others, whose ancestors lived there for generations until recently, indeed who live there to this day, are not.

I’m very grateful for my UK citizenship and acutely aware of the many stateless people all over the world, desperate for a passport and permission to live in a country where they don’t need to fear for their lives.

Yet these exclusions are out of keeping with Germany’s image of having “made amends” for its past. Many of us identify strongly with our German heritage and culture. Most of our British members have grown up as Europeans, but following Brexit, we will no longer have European citizenship and are currently excluded from German citizenship by quirks of the law. Hopefully these are due to an attachment to bureaucracy rather than to a remnant of anti-Jewish sentiment, and will soon be removed.

My contribution to this book charts many of my feelings and doubts when (re)claiming German citizenship, which are shared by several of us:

"A PLACE THEY CALLED HOME: Reclaiming Citizenship. Stories of a New Jewish Return to Germany" 

Ed. Donna Swarthout. Berlinica, New York and Berlin, 2019.