The uptick in applications for restored German citizenship from German Jews in the UK has begun. Prior to the Brexit referendum, UK citizens of German Jewish descent might not have felt a desire to have their German citizenship restored. But loss of an EU passport casts Germany in a new light. Thomas Harding expressed the sentiments of many others in his recent article for the Guardian, Brexit Drove me to Embrace my German Roots. Thanks to a reader for sending me this article in which Harding also cites Germany’s humane refugee policy as another factor that inspired him to seek German citizenship. A host of other recent articles report on Jewish fears of rising extremism and xenophobia in the post-Brexit UK.
Our own disappointment in the Brexit vote hit home on a personal level. Our son Avery just met the rigorous requirements for acceptance to the mechanical engineering program at University of Southampton. He’ll still be able to enroll as an EU citizen for the next two years, but his tuition would more than double if he is reclassified as an international student so he’ll need to have a contingency plan for completing his degree. Our daughter Olivia hopes to study environmental science in Scotland where a potential new referendum on leaving the UK might still make that possible as an EU citizen. We’d love for our kids to pursue their undergraduate degrees in Germany, but as German and EU citizens we also value the freedom they have to choose among the member countries.
British Jews eligible for German citizenship may not be ready to fully embrace Germany, but does this matter? The fact that Germany offers them an avenue to membership in a more integrated European society is reason enough to clasp the hand of the German state. Despite pressures from its own anti-immigrant forces, Germany is still the country with the world’s best passport. British Jews of German descent who reclaim German citizenship will have some complicated identity issues to untangle. I’ve been in touch with a few applicants and hope to include some of their Brexit-related stories in my book on the German Jewish citizenship experience.