Germany sees dramatic rise in citizenship applications by British Jews
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Applications up from 43 in 2015 to 1,667 last year

Germany sees dramatic rise in citizenship applications by British Jews

Fears of the UK leaving the EU and rising anti-Semitism thought to be behind move to reclaim passports stripped from their families by the Nazis

Jewish children fleeing the Nazis arrive in London, February 1939. (Photo credit:  CC-BY-SA/Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S69279 / Wikimedia Commons)
Jewish children fleeing the Nazis arrive in London, February 1939. (Photo credit: CC-BY-SA/Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S69279 / Wikimedia Commons)

The number of Britons who have requested to regain German citizenship that was robbed from their families by the Nazis has risen from 43 in 2015 to almost 1,700 last year, with most of those eligible being British Jews.

Last year, following the 2016 referendum in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, the number leapt to 1,667 requests, according to figures released by the German interior ministry in response to a parliamentary question.

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.

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

The legal provision is also open to descendants of those who were persecuted and sought safe haven abroad.

Germany is a member of the European Union, which the United Kingdom intends to leave following the Brexit referendum.

The report also comes following a poll last month that showed 40 percent of British Jews would “seriously consider emigrating” if Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn became prime minister.

The UK famously saved thousands of Jewish children in the Kindertransport operation. It rescued almost 10,000 Jewish children, mostly unaccompanied by their parents, from Nazi-occupied Germany, Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Children were placed in British foster families, schools or hostels all over the country. The transports ended with the outbreak of war in September 1939.

The identity card of Herbert Levy, who was brought to England by Kindertransport from Berlin in Germany in 1939 to escape Nazi persecution, at his home in London, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Apart from Brexit concerns, UK Jewry has been rocked by rising anti-Semitism, specifically in the main opposition party.

Religious hate crimes in England and Wales increased by 40% in the past year, according to a report from England’s Home Office. At least 12% of those attacks targeted Jews even though they make up only 0.5% of the population.

There has also been a slight rise in aliyah to Israel from the United Kingdom between January 1 and September 1 this year; immigration increased by a mere 7%, to 371 newcomers, an interim report by the Jewish Agency for Israel showed.

The crisis over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party — including its failure to fully adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance‘s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism until last month — has caused a major schism within its ranks and led Jews to express fears over their future in the country.

British Labour Party politician, David Lammy, second right, joins members of the Jewish community holding a protest against Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, outside the British Houses of Parliament in London, March 26, 2018. (Tolga Akmen/AFP)

Corbyn says anti-Semitism has no place in the Labour Party, but he has been roundly criticized over reports of rampant anti-Jewish prejudice, for his own allegedly anti-Semitic statements and activities, and for not backing the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.

The Jewish Chronicle poll found that 38.53% of Jews would “seriously consider emigrating” if Corbyn became prime minister. He leads the main opposition party, and it is considered a realistic possibility that Labour could unseat Theresa May’s governing Conservative Party in a future general election.

In January 2015, months before Corbyn became party leader, a similar poll — which was conducted following Paris’s January 7 Charlie Hebdo massacre and subsequent January 9 Jewish HyperCacher supermarket murders — found that only 11% of British Jews were considering leaving the UK, the Chronicle said.

Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn waves to delegates after giving his keynote speech on the final day of the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, north-west England on September 26, 2018. (AFP/Oli Scarff)

The poll of 710 Jews was carried out by Survation from August 13 and September 4, 2018,  a period when several past speeches hostile to Israel and Zionism by the Labour leader were revealed, as was the fact that he laid a wreath at a Tunisia cemetery where Palestinian terrorists involved in the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre are buried.

Labour’s National Executive Committee adopted the provisions of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, together with a vague and controversial caveat declaring that the commitment to the IHRA definition “will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians.”

Corbyn, however, sought to further dilute the significance of adopting the IHRA definition, by having the meeting also approve a statement declaring that it should not “be regarded as anti-Semitic to describe Israel, its policies or the circumstances around its foundation as racist.” His proposal found no support and was not voted on.

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