17,000 Descendants of Nazi Victims Demand Austrian Citizenship

Lifestyle & TravelMore+ ♦ Published: August 31, 2021; 15:24 ♦ (Vindobona)

In the one year since the change in the Citizenship Act allowed the descendants of victims of Nazi persecution the right to Austrian citizenship, the Vienna Municipal Department 35 (MA 35) has received nearly 17,000 applications. Around 10,000 of these applications still need to be processed. Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg and the President of the Jewish Community Oskar Deutsch reflected on the program on its one-year anniversary.

President of the Jewish Community of Vienna Oskar Deutsch: "The restitution of Austrian citizenship has proven to be a unique bridge between the republic and the victims of National Socialism expelled from Austria and their families." / Picture: © BMI Bundesministerium für Inneres / Alexander Tuma

Since an amendment to the Citizenship Act allowing direct descendants of those persecuted by the Nazi regime the possibility of obtaining Austrian citizenship came into force roughly one year ago, nearly 17,000 applications have been received by the responsible Viennese municipal department (MA 35).

Of these applications, 12,812 were sent via the representation authorities abroad, the majority of them from Tel Aviv, London and the USA, with around 3,000 submitted directly. The MA 35 has already successfully concluded more than 6,600 of the citizenship procedures initiated, but this still leaves around 10,000 applications to be processed.

As Vindobona previously reported, the MA 35 has recently been criticized for its significant delays in processing visa applications and refusal to answer calls and inquiries about applications. It remains to be seen if these delays have also impacted the applications for descendants of Nazi persecutees.

Regarding the program, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said, “We receive stories about the touching fates of people of all ages who, for various reasons, have decided to take on Austrian citizenship.”

Looking back on the one-year anniversary, Oskar Deutsch, the President of the Jewish Community of Vienna, also appreciates the citizenship for the descendants of the Jewish victims of Nazi persecution from Austria. He said, “The restitution of Austrian citizenship has proven to be a unique bridge between the republic and the victims of National Socialism expelled from Austria and their families, especially since the positive response from all over the world has been overwhelming.”

In order to highlight these life stories in an exemplary manner, they are now to be combined in one publication.

About this publication, Schallenberg said, “My ministry has initiated a project in cooperation with the Jewish Community to record these life stories. We want to show selected portraits in order to bring to life what the public often only perceives as a legal paragraph. The aim is to create a book that may also move others to deliberately concern themselves with their Austrian ancestors and ultimately become Austrians themselves.”

From Austria's point of view, it is not a matter of course that descendants will use this option. Rather, it is a guide to enable affected people to regain a part of their identity that was unforgivably stolen from them more than half a century ago. With this initiative, Austria is trying to counteract the forgetting of the atrocities of the Nazi regime and to honor the memory of the countless victims.

Austrian Foreign Ministry