Today, on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, my husband heard back from the German Citizenship Project.
Under German law, he and his descendants are entitled to citizenship. All German Jews who fled Hitler — along with their children and grandchildren — are entitled. (Alas, it can be tricky to prove you’re the descendant of a German citizen, what with the unfortunate pairing of Germany’s passion for paperwork with the Nazis penchant for burning everything as the Russians and Americans advanced. Furthermore, not every Jew born in Germany actually was a German citizen. Complicated.)
Anyway, Jonathan’s grandfather, Ulrich Steuer, was a rabbi in Karlsruhe. He escaped the country just a few weeks before Kristallnacht, by wrangling an invitation to conduct High Holidays services in Fredericksburg, VA. Other family members managed to flee to Brazil — we’ve met several of their descendants, who are delightful, and hope to visit the big extended mishpocha in Sao Paolo someday soon.
Why did Jonathan want to be a German citizen? Here’s his answer, in his words:
For the kids! When I graduated from college, I lived abroad and worked for a year. It was reasonably hard to do that legally then, and it’s even harder now, post-9/11. I’m happy to have the opportunity to make it easy for Josie and Max to live and work in Europe at some point if they so choose, and having an EU passport is a great way to do this. Our Brazilian cousin Ricardo Herz is living in Paris now, taking advantage of such an opportunity.
Because we CAN! On some level, I admit that I simply like the idea of making a bloodline-obsessed German functionary have to to process papers assigning Liberal Jewy Me Who Doesn’t Speak German all the same rights in the Fatherland that he has. The combination of this little bit of schadenfreude and post-Holocaust entitlement make me want to do this just because it’s possible.
Fear of Another Dubya! Our last President was such a moron on a global scale that for a while, I was seriously worried about whether he’d simply make international travel on a US passport actually impossible.
Sadly, since I am not Blood (my father’s favorite genealogical term), I do not get dual citizenship. I can only hope that should an anti-American pogrom or holocaust happen anywhere in the world, my about-to-be-German husband and children will hide me in an attic.