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Germany moves to ease citizenship for Nazi victims’ descendants

BERLIN — The German government agrees to a draft law to naturalize some descendants of Nazi victims who had previously been denied citizenship.

Described by Berlin as a symbolic step, the measure helps close legal loopholes which had led to many victims’ descendants having their citizenship application rejected.

“This is not just about putting things right, it is about apologizing in profound shame,” says Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.

“It is a huge fortune for our country if people want to become German, despite the fact that we took everything from their ancestors,” he says in a statement.

While Germany has long allowed descendants of persecuted Jews to reclaim citizenship, the lack of a legal framework meant many applicants were rejected before a rule change in 2019.

Some were denied because their ancestors fled Germany and took on another nationality before their citizenship was officially revoked.

Others were rejected because they were born to a German mother and non-German father before April 1, 1953.

Passing the 2019 decree into law was a way of giving them “the value they deserved” while putting beneficiaries on a firmer legal footing, interior ministry spokesman Steve Alter says.

Germany’s Central Council of Jews says that the previous decree had been “inadequate” and that it had long campaigned for a statutory right.

“It is gesture of decency if both the victims and their descendants are able to claim German citizenship on legal grounds,” says the council’s president Josef Schuster.

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