Here’s the story

Welcome to Fatherland

Welcome to Fatherland

Article 116 par. 2 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (Grundgesetz) goes something like this:

“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.’

I’ve decided to scrape up whatever documentation about my father I can.  He was born in Berlin in 1938 and his family fled the Nazis.  He didn’t raise me and he died last year.

I’ve decided to see if Germany will have me back.

And this blog monitors my progress.

At first, I think there won’t be a story unless the German government opens its pale, muscled arms to me.  But if I wait to have a story worth telling, I might miss the story I am standing in right now, in the middle of my life, at the edge of the country, in the foreign city I already live in.

Welcome to Fatherland.


16 thoughts on “Here’s the story

  1. Well, reading the Barnard Bulletin, there you were. Your blog caught my eye. I am first generation Holocaust Survivor. Dad and Mother, still alive–a feat in and of itself. I thought I would never step foot in Germany…no way, no how. And yet, I went to Berlin, visiting his home, walking his paths, speaking our language, torn between feelings of finally being home and some type of betrayel. I grapple with feelings of “how many generations must bear the brunt,” I grapple with hate shown me as I spoke German in Amsterdam, I grapple with applying for citizenship, I grapple with some unknown sense of belonging in a place I have physically never been. And, when we left, I cried.

    I would welcome communicating more. Feel free to contact me.

    • Hi Linda:

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read Fatherland and to respond. I’m going to Berlin in May and can’t believe it (on more than one level, as per your note to me), even though of course I can believe it and have put much time and thought into the decision. When did you go to Berlin, and was there any particular neighborhood or place that “spoke to you?”


  2. I think what you are doing is highly interested. A story of reconnecting with your fatherland while discovering your father. This is very unique.

    • Dear Lynette:

      Thanks for taking the time to read Fatherland and send along an encouraging word! I very much appreciate it.

      Best wishes,


  3. I have a similar story and I am wondering how you are going about requesting German citizenship. I would like to do the same. Please send me the details.

    • David,

      The German consulate has an extensive website that will provide all the information. Thanks for reading, and good luck!


  4. Dear Kathy, I looked you up after receiving my Bulletin since I’m a Barnard graduate living in Germany–I’m not Jewish, just interested in your quest. If you do come to Germany and are interested in being in touch with another Barnard graduate, I am class of 1979 and I live in Essen with my husband and three children; we both teach American literature and culture at the university here

    • Dear Melissa:

      My apologies for taking so long to respond, but thank you so very much for checking out my blog and taking the time to correspond. If we had a longer visit for this first trip to Germany, we would love to visit you in Essen! What a great invitation. It would be a great Barnard moment as well as so valuable (and fun) for my family to visit yours. Unfortunately, we only have five days and are going to be mostly focused on Berlin, with one side trip to Halberstadt, where my mother’s family originates. I do hope and expect that this will be the first visit of many, and if you are able to keep the offer open I hope to look you up in the future. Thanks again for reading and for reaching out!

      Best regards,


  5. Dear Kathy,

    Thanks for your website. I was born in Germany in 1932, father was Jewish, mother not. Left Germany in 1937. Would like dual citizenshipnow. If Germany grants me citizenship based on my birth status, will I have to give up my US citzenship, which I’m not anxious to do. I speak fluent German, French and English and visit Germany at least once a year to relatives and friends.

  6. Dear Kathy, I was born in Breslau,Germany in 1931, of a Jewish father and Aryan mother. Left Germany due to father’s jewish heritage in 1937.Would now like to have dual citizenship with Germany. Is this possible without surrendering my US Citizenship

    Thanks for any infor you can provide. Steffi

  7. Hi Kathy,

    I just stumbled upon your blog and I’m wondering if you are still in Berlin? I too received my German citizenship and decided to pack-up and move my family to Berlin. We have been here since June and it has been a wild emotional ride. I have found a few other like minded travelers here in Berlin since we’ve arrived. If you are still around I would love to swap stories.

    Give me a shout.

    Warm regards,

    • Hi Wendy!

      Thank you so much for writing. Great to hear from you. Glad you’ve stumbled upon me, and I you. I am back in Los Angeles, where I work fulltime as an entertainment advertising copywriter, my day job as I furiously finish the first draft of my first novel. All of that has made it tough for me to make the time for the blog, as the novel is the Main Event. But hearing from you and a few other expat readers is very motivating as I try to figure out how to squeeze more writing time out of my day. In any case, I haven’t yet received citizenship — given how perfectly the trains run in Fatherland, I am a little surprised that it’s now been five months or so past the year-mark that the nice folks in Frankfurt presented as the time-frame. How long did the process take for you?

      I’m wildly curious about your family’s emotional ride. In what neighborhood do you live, and are your kids in school?

      My son is almost 9, and we took a tour of the JFK School. Were enamored of it to say the least.

      I hope to get back to Berlin in 2011 and have a longer stay this time. Would love to meet you in person when the time comes!

      Thanks again for taking the time to reach out, and hopefully we can stay connected.

      Best wishes!


  8. I came across this story, and I would like to point out that I am a first generation daughter of a German holocaust survivor. My mother fled Germany with my grandparents in 1939, and they went to Shanghai, one of the few ports open to Jews. They lived in a Jewish ghetto there until 1947. Supposedly, I am entitled to German citizenship. But here is the catch, I was born in 1951, and it is my mother, not my father who was born in Germany. The law was changed in 1953 to include the mother, but get this, it wasn’t changed retroactively! Therefore, the German government says I am ineligible because of being born before 1953 before the law was changed to count the mother, as well as the father born in Germany. I have been fighting this law, however, as it’s sexist, and anti-Semitic in that Jewish lineage is passed down through the mother. The other thing that is so crazy is that my sister, who was born after 1953 is entitled, while I am not, and we have the same mother!

    I too have been interviewed recently by Thomas Vogelbacher. He was on my side, and a very nice guy, but now I have a new person handling my case, and it’s not quite the same.

    Anyone else in this predicament? Please let me know and I will contact you. If I am denied, I will try to start a class action suit against the German government for this discriminatory and unjust law. Thank you!

    • I don’t know about German law but know some New Yorkers who were grandchildren of an Austrian Jew who had emigrated to NYC after World War Two. Now, the grandchildren apparently had the right to apply for the Austrian citizenship that their grandfather had lost–in fact the Austrian government contacted him to restore citizenship, which I believe he got with some kind of medal as well. I wonder if looking into Austrian policy might help, or give you something with which to work. Hope you get your citizenship! Best, Melissa Knox-Raab

  9. Thank you, Melissa, for your comment. I did try using my grandfather after they told me my mother didn’t count towards citizenship, but they say my mother “breaks the chain”. Go figure, but I guess if my mother had been born in the United States, then I could use my grandfather. But because my mother was born in Berlin, my grandfather doesn’t count either!

    It’s the most insane thing I’ve ever heard of!


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