British descendants of Jews who fled the Nazis now seeking German citizenship post-Brexit

© Thomas Peter
A rising number of Jews who settled in Britain after escaping Nazi persecution are now seeking German nationality in the wake of the Brexit vote, it has emerged.

There has been a surge in the number of Britons seeking to become nationals of EU countries since the UK voted to leave the bloc, with some people citing economic uncertainty and a rise in racist incidents.

The German embassy in London says it has received “dozens” of requests for information about citizenship from refugees’ descendants living in Britain since the vote. Previously, only two or three UK nationals sought German nationality per year, the Independent reports.

In Germany, there are special rules for Jewish and political refugees from Hitler’s Reich.

Under the principle of “restored citizenship,” former 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.”

Rachel Houseman, who lives in north-west London and works in investment banking, says Brexit will be bad for the economy and could lead to more anti-Semitism.

“I can’t frankly see any signs for optimism. Quite a few firms, certainly in financial services, will be moving a lot of their operations out to the EU,” Houseman told the newspaper.

“My family and I are also shocked by the rise in racism. I don’t think, as Jews, we’ll be immune from this at all. A couple I know were abused in the street in London last week for speaking in Dutch, the husband just happened to be Jewish. That was anti-foreign, rather than anti-Semitic, but it shows the way things are going.”

She added: “We have no idea what’s going to happen with visas and Europe, we can’t get assurances from the politicians on this because they don’t know themselves, it’s a real mess.

“Our family came here from Hamburg, we lost relations in the Holocaust. We have relations in Germany, so we are going to look at the German option.”

Successive German governments have traditionally welcomed the return of Jewish and other refugees - and their descendants - who fled the Nazis. Britons now seeking citizenship are not expected to face many obstacles.

They will be able to have dual nationality, something denied to those from outside the EU under German law.

At the weekend, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said the remaining members should not “pull up the drawbridge” on young Britons, who largely voted to ‘Remain.’

“[Young British people] knew better than those snobs from the British elite that their future was at stake,” Gabriel said.

Since the vote, the Irish embassy has received a huge number of applications and Dublin has published a guide on how to obtain documents for 430,000 people of Irish descent living in England, Wales and Scotland.

People in Northern Ireland are automatically entitled to claim Irish nationality and post offices there had at one stage run out of application forms.

The French, Italian and Belgian embassies say they have also received an increase in applications for citizenship.