Regaining German citizenship for former Germans deprived of their citizenship


General information

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.

Latest news
Following the Federal Constitutional Court decision of 20 May 2020 – 2 BvR 2628/18 – the eligibility criteria under Article 116 (2) sentence 1 of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz) have been extended.
From now on, the following individuals also qualify as descendants under citizenship law:
- children born in wedlock before 1 April 1953 to mothers, whose German citizenship had been revoked, and foreign fathers
- children born out of wedlock before 1 July 1993 to fathers, whose German citizenship had been revoked, and foreign mothers
Hence, there is no longer any need to apply for naturalization under § 14 of the Nationality Act in conjunction with the decrees of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community of 28 March 2012 and 30 August 2019.
Affected persons whose citizenship application under Article 116 (2) sentence 1 of the Basic Law was rejected in the past on the basis of the legislation in force at the time, can contact the diplomatic mission at any time.

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 “Obtaining German citizenship)

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. Australian) 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).

How do I go about it?

Please fill out an application form (see below), sign it, and hand it in at the German Consulate General Sydney (either in person by appointment only or by mail) together with the originals plus a copy of all the relevant documents (see information sheet below) or certified copies of all documents. If you are a descendent of a former German citizen, please submit all certificates of birth and marriage needed to prove your descent from the former citizen. All documents written in a language other than German or English should be accompanied by an official translation. Most cititzenship authorities in Germany will accept documents in English. Documents in non-Latin scrips (eg. Hebrew, Russian), however, will require translation.
The consular officer will pre-check your application, certify your copies if necessary and then forward your application to the competent authority in Germany. If sending your application through mail, you are required to submit all documents as notarized copies with your application. To obtain notarized copies, please contact your local notary public, Justice of the Peace, Australian police station or any German Consulate.
The application process is free of charge and may take up to 18 months, depending on the ability of the German Federal Office of Administration (”Bundesverwaltungsamt“), to find the necessary documents in archives in Germany. The more information you provide, the easier it will be to track down the required information. If you have family members who have already gone through the application process, please provide information on their applications and send in a copy of their German certificates of naturalization (”Einbürgerungsurkunde“).

Please mention any name changes due to naturalization. Also, please provide information on any transcriptions of German names into foreign languages (e.g. Müller to Mueller/Muller/Miller or Grünspan to Greenspan), any abbreviations of first names (e.g. Alfred to Fred or Johann to John), or even complete changes of first and last names.

Application form and further information

Please download the information sheet regarding naturalization under Art 116 German Basic Law here.

Please download the application form for naturalization under the Art 116 German Basic Law for applicants under 16 years.

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