Germany’s top court on Wednesday ruled that children of parents who had their German citizenship revoked by the Nazis cannot be denied citizenship simply because they were born outside marriage.
The parents’ marital status should have no bearing on entitlement to citizenship, the judges at the Constitutional Court found.
“If a law mandates the state to grant citizenship, this right must be fulfilled without discrimination against illegitimate children,” the court said.
The German constitution provides for people whose citizenship was revoked for “political, racial or religious reasons” by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945 to have German citizenship restored on application. This also applies to their descendants, although there is no specific definition of “descendants.”
German Jewish father, American mother
The decision related to the case of a woman born in the US in 1967 whose Jewish father had escaped the Nazis and lost his German citizenship in 1938.
The plaintiff, whose mother was American, has been living in Germany since 2013. The father, who became a US citizen, had recognized her as his child.
The woman’s application for German citizenship was refused because her parents had been unmarried at the time of her birth. According to the decision, the rules at the time meant she would have been ineligible for citizenship in any case.
However, the Constitutional Court judges ruled that under Germany’s constitution, all children must be treated equally, regardless of their parents’ marital status.
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It said the law’s intention of undoing Nazi injustice ran against an overly narrow interpretation of the term “descendants” to exclude children born out of wedlock.
The judges also found that such an arbitrary refusal of citizenship could infringe the European Convention on Human Rights.
The ruling went to the Constitutional Court only after appeals to Germany’s administrative courts failed. The judges reached their decision in May, but the ruling was only published on Wednesday.
rc/msh (dpa, epd, AP, AFP)