Saturday 15 December 2018

Thousands of Britons whose families fled Nazis now applying for German passports

Brexit talks: British Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Thursday
Brexit talks: British Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Thursday

Justin Huggler

Thousands of Britons whose families fled from Nazi Germany to the UK to escape persecution are applying for German citizenship because of Brexit, it has emerged.

There has been a surge of Britons invoking a German law under which the descendants of anyone who lost or gave up their citizenship to escape Nazi persecution is entitled to reclaim it.

A total of 3,408 people living in the UK have applied to reclaim German citizenship under the law since the Brexit referendum.

Tens of thousands of mostly Jewish refugees fled to Britain from Germany and countries controlled by the Nazis in the years leading up to World War II.

They include nearly 10,000 unaccompanied Jewish children who were evacuated in the final months before the war and given refuge in Britain in the Kindertransport rescue mission. They were often the only members of their families to escape the Holocaust.

In 2015, the year before the referendum, Germany's missions in the UK received a total of just 59 applications to reclaim citizenship on any grounds.

But the number leapt to 760 in 2016 and 1,824 last year, and so far this year it is 1,147. The overwhelming majority have invoked the Nazi persecution law. Details emerged in a written answer by the German government to a parliamentary question from the pro-business Free Democrat party (FDP).

"This shows that many British people want to keep the benefits of EU citizenship," Konstantin Kuhle of the FDP said. "This is not surprising given the British government's chaotic Brexit negotiating position."

In addition to those invoking the law, thousands of Britons living and working in Germany have applied to naturalise as German citizens to ensure they can remain there.

Some 2,900 British people naturalised as German citizens in 2016, and a further 7,500 last year, compared to just 622 in 2015, and Britons have leapt to second place among nationalities acquiring German citizenship, behind only Turkey, and ahead of Poland.

Irish Independent

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