It was a reasonable assumption. Since my German citizenship application was considered complete in the late Spring, I would receive a letter sometime during the summer with the good news that my citizenship had been granted. I avoided contacting any German officials so that my summer would remain pleasant and stress-free. But when I returned to Berlin last week it was time once again to make inquiries. And so my stress-free state of equilibrium abruptly came to an end.
I received a prompt response to my email inquiry from a Herr Techert with Berlin’s Department of the Interior and Sport. He informed me that he could not take any action on my application until I provided three additional documents: my father’s original Certificate of U.S. Citizenship, my father’s German passport from 1938, and my paternal grandparents’ marriage certificate. Although he had received my file over three months ago, Herr Techert waited until I contacted him to ask for these documents.
As you might imagine, my family does not have my father’s passport from when he left Germany as a young boy. It was probably taken from him at the border. It is even more preposterous to ask me to provide my grandparents’ marriage certificate. I do have my father’s U.S. Citizenship Certificate, granted on May, 11, 1944, which you can see here. How ironic that the German government wants me to hand over my dad’s original proof of U.S. citizenship after stripping his family of their German citizenship. I am appalled that these requests are being made well over a year after I provided both my parents’ German Jewish birth certificates and a host of other supporting documents with my application.
What else might I provide to satisfy the demands of Herr Techert for further proof that my father was a German Jew who fled the Nazis? Would he be satisfied with a copy of the letter my father received from the German government after he died inviting him on an all expense paid trip back to his birthplace? What if I provided proof of the tiny payments my father received from the Claims Resolution Tribunal for the Holocaust Victims Assets Litigation? Or perhaps a letter from someone in my father’s village who remembers when his family left for Frankfurt so that they would be gone when the Nazis arrived?
One of the challenges of the application process for those who seek to reclaim their German citizenship under Article 116 of Germany’s Basic Law is that the law does not specify what supporting documents must be submitted. This leaves the German government free to keep asking for more and more proof of your ancestry, requests which often cannot be fulfilled by families who left the country with next to nothing. I cannot jump as high as Herr Techert has asked me to jump, but perhaps an attorney or the media can help bring about a more judicious resolution of my case.