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Austria amends its Citizenship Act for Victims of the Nazi Persecution and their Direct Descendants to Apply for Austrian Citizenship

After decades post-World War 2, Austria has amended its Citizenship Act to allow Holocaust survivors and their direct descendants, who fled Austria during the Nazi National Socialist Regime persecution, to apply for Austrian Citizenship with all of its benefits. The changes came into force on the 1st of September 2020.

Austrian Parliament Building in Vienna

History and the Old Law 

When Nazi Germany took over Austria in March 1938, hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees fled the country. Most of these individuals had to settle and adapt to the new countries they resided in, including obtaining new citizenship because they had no other option. This meant that refugees had their Austrian passport revoked due to Austria’s prohibited dual citizenship law, leaving these same individuals without their original Austrian citizenship.

In 1993, Austria made the first initiative to allow Jewish survivors to reclaim their Austrian citizenship while beginning to take responsibility for the implications related to the crimes during the Nazi rule.

While Germany had many aspects of their country de-Nazified (laws and institutions) after the Second World War, Austria had few of these same changes implemented and had identified itself as a victim of the Nazi regime for a long while.

In 1994, Austria released an official apology for their involvement however it has been claimed that the country still kept back from funding Holocaust restitutions.

The law at that time stated that only survivors themselves were eligible for Austrian citizenship, and only if they had Austrian citizenship in their possession once before in their past, this prevented their family members such as children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. from claiming citizenship.

An amendment to the Austrian Citizenship Act, also known as “Staatsbürgerschaftsgesetz”, was approved and enacted by the Austrian Parliament on the 19th of September 2019. The action was taken as part of recognizing the country’s responsibility in history, as well as, an initiative for reconciling with and showing respect to Holocaust survivors and their descendants who suffered under, and due to, the Nazi rule in Austria.

This change in the Citizenship Act brings Austria’s regulations further in line with Germany’s.

It is estimated that there are a minimum of 200,000 individuals that will be applying for citizenship, with a large number of them from the United States, United Kingdom, and Israel that would benefit from gaining EU citizenship.

The New Law 

After more than 20 years of the Jewish Community of Vienna demanding amendments to The Citizenship Act, significant changes have finally been made. The changes came into force on the 1st of September 2020.

The old law from September 2019 stated that Holocaust survivors’ descendants were eligible for an Austrian passport if their ancestors left Austria before May 1945. In comparison, the newly amended law that has been instated since September 2020 brings the eligibility for direct descendants of Holocaust survivors who left Austria before 1955 (an additional 10 year period after the war ended) to also apply for Austrian citizenship.

“All persons who have been persecuted themselves by the Nazis and/or are descendants in direct line to persecuted ancestors (son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, great-grandson, great-granddaughter, etc.) are entitled to apply for citizenship.” - Jewish Community of Vienna

There have been a few more notable amendments within the act, as listed below:

  • Descendants and their families are able to obtain Austrian citizenship without having to revoke any other existing passport they may hold (this process is still required among individuals outside of this law);

  • Passports will be granted without the need to reside in Austria;

  • The law is applicable to both Jews and non-Jews;

  • The law now also grants citizenship to descendants of Austrian mothers, who were prevented from being able to use their Austrian citizenship to allow their descendants to claim and inherit Austrian citizenship prior to September 1983. The old law only accepted descendants if they had a father who was a Holocaust survivor;

  • Individuals who were citizens of the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (Hungary, Croatia, Italy, Slovenia, Serbia) or stateless at the time but lived in Austria until 15 May 1955, before the Nazis came into power, are also entitled to claim Austrian citizenship;

  • Application fees have been waived for the process.

What is required to apply for Austrian citizenship?

  • A filled-in citizenship application with signature, along with a detailed history of the Holocaust survivor’s time in Austria and information about their identity such as their nationality, place of residence, career, and if they were involved in the military;

  • A valid passport;

  • Applicant’s birth certificate;

  • Proof of foreign citizenship and how it was acquired;

  • Official foreign birth and marriage certificates (if applicable);

  • Proof of change of name in the case of marriage, divorce, etc.;

  • Proof of emigration from Austria by date;

  • Proof of Austrian citizenship prior to emigration;

  • Official documents that prove the applicant’s connection to the country.

For more information and assistance to apply for Austrian citizenship as a descendant of a Holocaust survivor, kindly get in touch with Till Neumann at Citizen Lane.