Explained: Nazi Laws Which Stripped Jewish Germans of Citizenship, and the Laws Restoring it

The Nazi regime is, of course, infamous for its persecution of Jews and others. One of the lesser-known ways in which the Nazi regime persecuted people was by stripping them of citizenship.

Today, people who had their citizenship taken away during this period can apply to have it restored, as can their descendants. (Unfortunately there are some exceptions, which will be discussed in a future article.)

This article explains exactly when and how the Nazis stripped these people of their citizenship and explains the legal mechanism which allows them and their descendants to apply to get it back.

Under which Nazi laws did Jewish Germans lose their German citizenship?

There were several ways in which the Nazis deprived Jewish Germans of citizenship. People sometimes think that the Nuremberg laws directly deprived Jewish Germans of citizenship in 1935, but this is a red herring.

In fact, deprivation of citizenship began with the 1933 ‘Law on the Revocation of Naturalisations and the Deprivation of the German Citizenship’. This did not automatically deprive everyone, however. Some people lost German citizenship when their naturalisations were revoked. Some natural-born German citizens were deprived of citizenship on an individual basis (in which case they were either informed by a letter, or had their names published in an official Gazette).

But most deprivations took place under the 25 November 1941 ‘Eleventh Decree to the Law on the Citizenship of the Reich’, which automatically stripped all Jewish Germans of their German citizenship if they had taken up residence abroad. This applied to every Jewish German who left German territory until the ‘Eleventh Decree’ was repealed along with a whole raft of other Nazi laws on 30 August 1945.


The German constitution, or Basic Law, signed by Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Konrad Adenauer in 1949

Under which law can Jewish former Germans (and their descendants) reclaim German citizenship?

In the years after the defeat of the Nazi regime, a new German constitution (Basic Law) was drafted. Article 116(2) of the 1949 German Basic Law aims to provide a way for Jews and others who had had their citizenship stripped to have it restored.

It states that: “[f]ormer 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.”

Based on the constitution, and subsequent case law, the official German guidance on Article 116(2) is that: “[w]hoever lost his/her German citizenship due to either [the 1933 ‘Law on the Revocation of Naturalisations and the Deprivation of the German Citizenship’ or the 1941 ‘Eleventh Decree to the Law on the Citizenship of the Reich’] is entitled to (re-)naturalisation according to Article 116 par. 2 of the Basic Law. This also applies to his/her descendants, provided that the following hypothetical question can be answered with a “yes”: Had the primary claimant of the naturalisation 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.”


To find out if you may have a claim to German citizenship through restoration, contact Passportia using our contact form or by calling our advisors. If you would like to share your experiences of this process, feel free to leave a comment below.

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