Berlin, Germany
Photo: Danny Sadeh

Sharp rise in Israelis seeking German citizenship

More than 4,000 Israelis received German citizenship last year, marking 50 percent increase from 2005. ‘For me it is important that I can have a European passport; I have no problem being German,’ 30-year-old Israeli says

The number of Israelis who obtained German citizenship rose sharply last year in a sign that a younger generation of Jews is shedding an aversion to the country where the Holocaust was masterminded.


According to figures published by the Federal Statistics Office this week, 4,313 Israelis received citizenship last year, an increase of over 50 percent compared to 2005, and the largest total since German records began a quarter of a century ago.


German law makes it easy for former citizens who fled the country during Nazi rule to regain their citizenship and offers the same chance to their descendants.


But few Israelis took advantage of this until recently -- a shift experts attribute to rising political instability in the Middle East, opportunities within an enlarged European Union and new attitudes towards Germany of a younger Israeli generation.


'Doors are open to most countries in the world'

The Nazis killed an estimated six million European Jews during their 12-year rule.


"The grandparents did not want to be German for obvious reasons. They taught their children that being German was a bad thing. But this is the first generation which thinks differently," said Katy Elmaliah, whose law firm in Tel Aviv helps young Israelis get German passports.


Candidates are seeking better educational and work opportunities in the 27-nation EU.


"They know it opens the door for the EU and offers many opportunities," she told Reuters.


Estimates show that some 300,000 Israelis may be eligible to become German citizens.


There are now an estimated 100,000 Jews in Germany compared with 600,000 before the war. At the end of World War Two, only 12,000 Jews remained.


A flood of Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s led to a rebirth of Germany's Jewish community.


Lothar Schulz, from the federal authority which deals with granting citizenships, said renewed violence between Israel and its neighbors was a factor in the rise in applications from Israel.


"They can come here and their doors are open to most countries in the world," he said.


An Israeli man in his 30s who recently obtained citizenship but did not want to be cited by name said being German opened up new horizons for him and his family.


"For my mother and my father the memories of the past are too hard. They would never want to be German but for me it is important that I can have a European passport," he said. "I have no problem being German."


פרסום ראשון: 07.24.07, 19:42
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