Article 116 par. 2 of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz) reads:
"Former German citizens who between January 30, 1933 and May 8, 1945 were deprived of their citizenship on political, racial, or religious grounds, and their descendants, shall on application have their citizenship restored. They shall be deemed never to have been deprived of their citizenship if they have established their domicile in Germany after May 8, 1945 and have not expressed a contrary intention.'
The above mentioned group of people mainly includes German Jews and members of the Communist or Social Democratic Parties.
The situation between 1933 and 1945
Between January 30, 1933 and May 8, 1945 there were two main laws pertaining to the loss of German citizenship. With the 'Law on the Revocation of Naturalizations and the Deprivation of the German Citizenship' of July 14, 1933, some persons were deprived of their German citizenship individually. Their names were listed in the Reich Law Gazette ('Reichsgesetzblatt') and with the publication of the particular 'Reichsgesetzblatt' they lost their German citizenship.
The main group of former German citizens, however, lost their citizenship with the 'Eleventh Decree to the Law on the Citizenship of the Reich' of November 25, 1941. This stipulated that Jews living outside Germany could not be German citizens. This mainly affected Jews who had left Germany in the years before or shortly after the beginning of the Second World War.
What does this mean for you?
Whoever lost his/her German citizenship due to either of these two regulations, is entitled to (re-)naturalization according to Article 116 par. 2 of the Basic Law. This applies also to his/her descendants, provided that the following hypothetical question can be answered with a "yes": Had the primary claimant of the naturalization claim not been deprived of his/her German citizenship, would his/her descendants have acquired citizenship by birth according to the applicable German law of citizenship?
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However, Art. 116 par. 2 Basic Law only applies where a person was deprived of his/her German citizenship by application of those politically/racially motivated laws.
Whoever, while living outside of Germany, acquired a foreign citizenship upon his/her own application before his/her name was published in the Reich Law Gazette or before November 25, 1941 lost his/her German citizenship as any other German citizen would have lost it in accordance with Sec. 25 of the German Citizenship Act. If you acquired a foreign citizenship (i. e. US or Israel) upon your application and lost your German citizenship not as a result of politically motivated deprivation, you may be eligible nevertheless to re-obtain your former German citizenship, if you emigrated from Nazi Germany for political reasons and applied for naturalization in your new home country as a result of this situation (in this case this would not apply to descendants).
For further information, please contact the locally competent German mission. To find out which of our missions is responsible for your area, please consult our consulate finder.
How do I go about it?
The application for naturalization in both cases does not require a special form. Nevertheless, to facilitate the process of searching archives in Germany, we provide an application form on our website. Please fill in a print-out, sign it, and mail it to the appropriate German mission with all documents available to you, e. g. old German passports of the German emigrant, birth certificates of the emigrant, marriage certificates, copies of the naturalization papers of other states where the German emigrant has been naturalized after leaving Germany. If you are a descendant of such person, please submit all certificates of birth and marriage necessary to prove your descent from the former German citizen.
Please note that all foreign documents that are not in English or Latin scripture (i.e. Hebrew or Russian) need to be translated by a certified translator.
Please do not send original documents but certified copies only. Certifications can be done by your local notary public.
Alternatively, you may personally bring your application and the original documents plus a simple copy to the consulate or embassy, in which case the certification of the documents will be done by a consular officer. Please note that the German missions do not provide translation services.
A third option is to contact an Honorary Consul near you for certifications.
To find the appropriate mission/Honorary Consul near you, please use the “Interactive Consulate Finder-Link".
The application is free of charge and may take up to a year, depending on the ability to find the necessary documents in archives in Germany. The more information you provide, the easier it will be for the German Federal Office of Administration to process your application. If you have family members who have already gone through the application process, please provide their case numbers or a copy of their German certificate of naturalization ('Einbürgerungsurkunde').
Please pay attention to name changes/alterations due to naturalization and transcriptions of German names into foreign languages (e. g. Müller to Mueller/Muller/Miller or Grünspan to Greenspan, abbreviations of first names e. g. Alfred to Fred, Johann(es) to John or even complete name changes of first and last names).