Donna Swarthout
Donna Swarthout

What Does Your Reisepass Mean to You?

With all the attention on the growing number of Jews leaving France for Israel, there hasn’t been much recent news about the Jews who are staying in Europe. Yet it was not so long ago that the headlines were full of stories about the exodus of Israelis to Berlin. The media attention peaked in late 2014 with the Milky pudding scandal, a young Israeli’s Facebook campaign comparing the low cost of living in Germany with Israel’s high prices.

Has the Israeli love affair with Berlin fizzled out and what about the rest of the Jews in Germany? Vox recently reported that while French Jews are making aliyah at an annual rate of 16 per thousand, Jews are leaving Germany for Israel at a rate of only 1.27 per thousand.

Maybe you don’t care about the Jews in Germany because the 200,000 (give or take a few) of them are such a small percentage of the global Jewish population. But their presence affirms that the story of European Jews is not just the story of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism. It is the story of the Jews who sit between the colossal twin pillars of Israel and Jewish America, writing a new chapter in Jewish history that moves forward from the Holocaust.

German Jews in the Diaspora are also characters in this story. What, if anything, connects them to Germany today? I began to wonder about this during my long and rocky road to reclaiming my German citizenship. When I finally held my Staatsangehörigkeitsausweis in my hand, it felt personally and historically significant. I began to think more about the thousands who were also eligible to have their German citizenship restored and those who had already done so.

When I started my Full Circle blog in June 2010 to document my German American Jewish journey, I began hearing from readers from around the world. A few sent hateful and harsh messages, but the majority reached out to explore our shared cultural connection. Many readers wanted to learn more about restored German citizenship for descendants of Holocaust refugees and survivors.

I soon found myself fielding all kinds of questions about eligibility for restored citizenship and the application process. Among the many people I advised, one case that stands out involved a British woman whose German Jewish parents had told her that she would not be eligible for restored citizenship because they had never reclaimed their own citizenship. I let her know this was false and she and her son have since become naturalized German citizens.

I’m now working on a book of stories of people who have reclaimed their citizenship under Article 116 of Germany’s Basic Law. Contributors will share their perspectives on what it means to reclaim a part of what the Nazis took from their families. One hundred thousand Israelis are reported to hold German passports so it’s important for the book to address the significance of this “return” of Israelis to Germany. I welcome submissions from Israelis who hold German passports, whether you live in Germany, Israel or elsewhere.

About the Author
Donna Swarthout is a writer and editor based in Berlin, Germany. She is the editor of A Place They Called Home. Reclaiming Citizenship. Stories of a New Jewish Return to Germany, published by Berlinica in January 2019.
Related Topics
Related Posts