Dramatic Rise in British Jews Applying for German Citizenship Amid Brexit Concerns

Number of Britons seeking German citizenship rose from 43 in 2015 to 1,667 last year

File photo: A protester wearing European Union facepaint during an anti-Brexit march in London, October 20, 2018.
Bloomberg

British Jews are applying for German citizenship in dramatic numbers, seeking a second European Union passport under a law designed to repatriate Jews whose families lost their German citizenship under the Nazis.

The number of Britons seeking German citizenship rose from 43 in 2015 to 1,667 last year.

The applications, which increased following the 2016 referendum in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, use a German legal provision that aims to make amends for Nazi-era persecutions, known as article 116-2.

Most of the applicants are Jewish, according to a report Friday by Deutche Welle, citing official data released by German authorities. Germany is a member of the European Union, which the United Kingdom intends to leave following the referendum.

Under article 116-2 of the German constitution, former Germans who lost their citizenship on “political, racial or religious grounds” between the day Adolf Hitler became chancellor on January 30, 1933 and Germany’s surrender on May 8, 1945, can ask to have their citizenship reinstated. The legal provision is also open to descendants of those who were persecuted and sought safe haven abroad.

According to the German government, the group “mainly includes German Jews” and members of critical political parties at the time.

Rabbi Julia Neuberger,  a member of the British House of Lords and the senior rabbi at the West London Synagogue, explained why she was applying for a German passport in a 2016 essay, after the Brexit vote.

“It doesn’t make me any less British, but it does allow me to reclaim a bit of my history,” Neuberger, whose mother was a refugee from Germany, wrote in the Guardian. “It also declares a belief in Europe, an admiration for how Germany has dealt with its Nazi past, and a real belief that [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel’s welcome of migrants was both right and brave.”