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German Citizenship by Descent

As part of its reparative responsibility, Germany allows descendants of German citizens and permanent residents who were victims of the Nazi regime to apply for citizenship. Depending on your family history, you may be eligible to apply for German citizenship if one of your ancestors was persecuted or feared persecution by the Nazi regime. You may also qualify to apply on general grounds, such as to rectify a discriminatory loss of German citizenship by a female ancestor. Make the most out of your ancestry by acquiring a German passport and experience the full freedom and protection afforded to EU nationals.

German Citizenship by Descent

German Citizenship by Descent (Including for Descendants of Nazi Victims)

Germany is one of the most powerful European countries, with an impressive economy, a high quality of life, and renowned education institutions. Major cities Frankfurt and Berlin are among the Top 25 and Top 40 cities worldwide, respectively, with the fastest-growing millionaire populations, and the country’s elite are expected to increase by 400 high-net-worth individuals by the end of 2023. German citizenship offers its holders visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to approximately 190 destinations worldwide. As a citizen of Germany, you can live, work, and study in the country and anywhere else in the EU and Switzerland at any time.

You can apply for German citizenship under a few conditions. The German government acknowledges Germany’s historic, reparative responsibility for the heinous acts committed during the Nazi regime and welcomes those who wish to rejoin the German community as citizens of ancestors who were persecuted by Nazis.

If you qualify for citizenship by descent, you do not need to relocate to Germany or speak the language. In many cases, such as if you apply based on Nazi persecution, you will not even be required to give up your present citizenship. As a German citizen, you will enjoy the full freedom and protection afforded to EU nationals.

Requirements of German citizenship based on descent and/or Nazi persecution

Conditions for descendants

All direct descendants, including those adopted as minors, of an ancestor who lost their German citizenship (or their ability to acquire German citizenship) as a result of Nazi persecution are eligible to apply for citizenship. The sequence of descent spans across several generations:

  • Children
  • Grandchildren
  • Great-grandchildren
  • And even further generations

Conditions for ancestors

You may possibly qualify for German citizenship if one of the following conditions applies:

  • You or your direct ancestor suffered persecution by the Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945 as a German citizen
  • You or your direct ancestor suffered persecution by the Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945 and were consequently prevented from acquiring German citizenship prior to emigration or deportation
  • Your biological parent held German citizenship at any point in their life
  • You were adopted as a minor by a German parent
  • Your grandparent was German, even if your parent did not acquire German citizenship at birth
  • Your grandmother lost her German citizenship when she married a foreign national, thus your parent did not acquire German citizenship at birth
  • You were born in Germany after 1 January 2000 to foreign parents who were permanent residents in Germany

Persecution by the Nazi regime can be based on the following:

  • Jewish descent
  • Racial motives
  • Political cause
  • Religious reason

During the Nazi regime, Germany and German citizenship extended to eastern parts of the German Reich, which today belong to Poland (Pommern, Schlesien, Ostpreußen, Ostbrandenburg). Also, Austria was deemed part of Germany and its citizens were considered German between 13 March 1938 and 26 April 1945. So if your ancestors were Polish or Austrian under the abovementioned conditions, you may be eligible to apply for German citizenship.

Documents required for the ancestor

Applications for citizenship must be accompanied by substantive documentation supporting the claim. Any documents that prove your German family background and/or persecution by the Nazi regime will be helpful, such as:

  • Passport (if available)
  • Birth certificate (if available)
  • Marriage certificate (if available)
  • Divorce certificate (if available)
  • Death certificate or records
  • Post-war compensation files
  • Evidence that the ancestor was persecuted (if available). The birth certificate is usually sufficient evidence for Jewish persons
  • Evidence that the persecuted ancestor was residing in Germany
  • In case of flight: Evidence that the ancestor fled from Germany (for example, passenger lists or billets from emigration)
  • In case of deportation: Evidence that the ancestor was deported by the Nazi regime
  • In case the ancestor was killed by the Nazi regime: Death certificate or other evidence

Henley & Partners can source supporting documents with the help of our legal partners in Germany.

Procedures and time frame of German citizenship

Applicants are advised to read all the requirements carefully before submitting their application. Thereafter, they will need to complete a client intake form to check for eligibility.

Henley & Partners can seamlessly manage the entire citizenship by descent application process for you, from helping you prove your lineage and researching your ancestors’ experience under the Nazi regime by checking various institutions and archives, to assisting with legalizing and apostilling documents, to liaising with the relevant authorities, to you receiving your German passport in hand.

The process for acquiring German citizenship by descent or based on Nazi persecution takes about 18 months but may be much shorter if the application is prepared properly and communicated with the participating authorities. Certain groups of applicants deserve preference, namely those who personally endured Nazi persecution.

Contact us today

For more information on how we can help you secure your future by connecting with your family’s legacy, please complete the German citizenship by descent enquiry form below.

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