Information on obtaining/re-obtaining German citizenship for former German citizens and their descendants who were persecuted on political, racial or religious grounds between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945.
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 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945 there were mainly two laws pertaining to the loss of German citizenship. With the 'Law on the Revocation of Naturalisations and the Deprivation of the German Citizenship' of 14 July 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 due to the 'Eleventh Decree to the Law on the Citizenship of the Reich' of 25 November 1941. This stipulated that Jews living outside of 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-)naturalisation according to Article 116 par. 2 of the Basic Law. This also applies to his/her descendants, provided that the following hypothetical question can be answered with a "yes": Had the primary claimant of the naturalisation claim not been deprived of his/her German citizenship, would his/her descendants have acquired citizenship by birth according to the applicable German law of citizenship. (See Link)
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 (e.g. of the United Kingdom) upon your application and lost your German citizenship not as a result of politically motivated deprivation, you may be eligible nevertheless to re-obtain your former German citizenship if you emigrated from Nazi Germany for political reasons and applied for naturalisation in your new home country as a result of this situation (in this case however, the re-naturalisation claim would not apply to descendants of the emigrant). For further information, please contact the German Embassy in London or the Consulate General in Edinburgh.
How do I go about it?
The application for naturalisation in both cases does not require a special form. Nevertheless, to facilitate the process of searching archives in Germany, the German Missions provide an application form on our website (see link below). Please fill in a printout, sign it, and mail it to the appropriate German mission (i.e. the German Emabssy London or the Consulate General in Edinburgh) with all documents available to you, e. g. old German passports of the German emigrant, birth certificates of the emigrant, marriage certificates, copies of the naturalisation papers of other states where the German emigrant has been naturalised 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).
Please note that all foreign documents that are not in English or Latin scripture (e.g. Hebrew or Russian) need to be translated by a certified translator.
Please do not send original documents, but one set of certified and one set of simple photocopies. Certifications can also be done by your local notary public.
Alternatively, you may personally bring your application and the original documents plus two sets of simple copies to the Consulate General or Embassy, in which case the certification of the documents will be done by a consular officer. Please note that the German missions cannot provide translation services.
A third option is to contact a German Honorary Consul near you for the certifications. To find the appropriate German mission/Honorary Consul near you, please use the link to our “Consulate Finder”.
The application is free of charge and may take up to a year, depending on the ability to find the necessary documents in archives in Germany. The more information you provide, the easier it will be for the competent citizenship authority, the German Federal Office of Administration (Bundesverwaltungsamt), to process your application. If you have any family members who have already gone through the application process, please provide their case numbers or a copy of their German certificate of naturalisation ('Einbürgerungsurkunde').
Please pay attention to name changes/alterations due to naturalisation 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). Where possible, please provide documentary evidence of the change of name (e.g. deed poll, British naturalisation certificate mentioning both the old and new name).
Please include your phone number and email address on your application form or accompanying letter, in case we need to reach you.
Although the information on this website has been prepared with utmost care, we cannot accept any responsibility for inaccuracies contained herein.