Austria Offers Citizenship to Descendants of Victims of the Nazi Regime

A new law that entered into force on September 1 offers a path to citizenship to tens of thousands whose ancestors were persecuted by the Nazis.

Since today, September 1, descendants of Austrian victims of the Nazi regime will be able to obtain the Austrian citizenship. The basis is an amendment to the Austrian Citizenship Act passed by the National Council in September 2019, as reported by Metropole.

This is an expansion of current law that had already given the right to citizenship to those who were themselves victims of the Nazis. Now, their direct descendants, i.e. children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, are also entitled. 

Children who were adopted are also eligible under the new regulation, if the adoption had taken place when the child was a minor. In contrast to the otherwise strict Austrian citizenship law, dual citizenship is explicitly permitted in these cases.

Those who can apply for Austrian citizenship are defined in the law as follows:

  • Descendants of persons who were subject to persecution during National Socialism or Austro-Fascist rule, or had to fear such persecution, and therefore left Austria before May 15, 1955.
    • If the persecuted person was citizen of Austria or one of the successor states of the Austro-Hungarian Empire or a stateless person at the time of persecution, and
    • had their principal residence in the territory of the Republic of Austria before leaving the country. 

A comprehensive FAQ section on the website of the Austrian Embassy in Tel Aviv provides more detailed answers about the new law and the procedures.

A short online questionnaire compiled by the Austrian Foreign Ministry, available in German, English, Hebrew and Spanish should make the process quicker and easier. After filling in some basic information, Austrian authorities will help with further research and provide individualized feedback on each case within several weeks.

If all conditions and documents are available, Austrian citizenship can then be obtained by “Anzeige” (notice). Crucially, this means the Austrian citizenship is not being “awarded”, as would be the case in a usual citizenship procedure, but is being reinstated.

At the Austrian embassy in Washington, DC, the first descendants filed for their Austrian citizenship right on the first day, as Ambassador Martin Weiss tweeted.

“A great step!”

Thousands of Austrians had to flee from the horrors of the persecution of National Socialism and found a new home in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay,” was the Austrian ambassador in Buenos Aires, Christoph Meran, quoted in the Argentine newspaper El Libertador. “The fact that descendants can now acquire Austrian citizenship is very good news and a great step that has been taken in my country.”

According to Britain’s center-left daily The Guardian, “tens of thousands” of Britons are eligible for Austrian citizenship as descendants of Nazi victims, while in total, there are “at least 200,000,” the paper said. With the amendment, Austria is bringing its citizenship law “into line with recently enacted German laws,” the newspaper wrote.

Benjamin Wolf
Benjamin studied Journalism, History and International Affairs. After stints with Cafébabel in Paris and Arte in Strasbourg, he is now working as managing editor and COO for Metropole in Vienna. Fields of expertise are politics, economics, culture, and history.Photo: Visual Hub

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